‘I feel no guilt’: French boss defends €2.5m salary hike

The boss of French car giant Peugeot Citroen insists a decision to double his salary to €5.2 million was entirely justified, despite the company cutting thousands of jobs.

'I feel no guilt': French boss defends €2.5m salary hike
"I earn this much". Peugeot Citroen boss Carlos Tavares defends his salary. Photo: AFP

Carlos Tavares is clearly good at his job.

He took over at the struggling PSA Peugeot Citroen carmakers in December 2013, despite being advised not to by friends and family and helped save the company from what he described as a “near death experience”.

Tavares, a self-confessed petrol head who loves the thrill of racing sports cars as well as saving seemingly doomed companies, was hailed for leading the firm back from a €555 million loss in 2014 to a net profit of €1.2 billion in 2015.

Although he was helped by China and the French government jointly stumping up €800 million between them to refinance Europe's second biggest carmaker, the Peugeot Citroen board hailed the impact of Tavares.

They decided it was right he should see his salary doubled from €2.7 million a year to €5.2 million.

And Tavares himself also thought it was right, despite the recovery plan meaning the loss of 11,000 jobs at the firm and even though it came at a time when France was suffering record unemployment.

“I have no guilt, none at all,” Tavares told The Local and other members of the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris at the company's swanky Paris headquarters on Friday.

“Frankly I feel very relaxed about it.”

He said his tough performance targets were set by the supervisory board, “but being a sportsman I take pleasure in trying to push the line even further.”

“I took an enormous risk to come to a company that was almost bust and no one told me the salary was almost all variable and if you don’t get the result you won’t get what you expect,” Taveres said.

“I have zero safety net if I don’t perform.”

Much of the criticism Tavares faced was from the French state, who own a 13 percent stake in the company and whose representative was ordered to vote against his pay rise.

Finance Minister Michel Sapin slammed the massive salary hike as “harmful”.

(French finance minister Michel Sapin. Photo: AFP)

“We are in a time when we need to make an effort, and it needs to be more or less shared. I say more or less because we are talking about figures that are so huge that one can barely comprehend what they mean,” said Sapin.

Unions also laid into the Peugeot chief saying the astronomical rise would “cause a lot of of damage to social cohesion” with the country's economy still in the doldrums. 

Tavares explained that in reality the salary figure was not as dramatic and that eye-watering salaries were just part of being the CEO of a car firm.

“A large part of this €5 million is in stock that eventually I will get in many years. Experience shows me that you will never get that money because many things happen,” he said.

“For the rest it was just a result of the fact we turned around the company.”

“You have car company CEOs, you have soccer players, you have Formula 1 drivers, there is a market. It’s an open market.”

The Lisbon-born boss who spent much of his career at rivals Renault-Nissan added he accepted that criticism comes with the job and the pay packet.

“I'm fine with it. That's life. It's part of my job to accept this criticism. My only point of focus is that I want this company to succeed,” he said.

However not everyone in France took offence at the money the CEO was earning, even if it is a sensitive time in France.

Pierre Gattaz, head of the Medef employers' association, defended the move, saying: “When there is success, it does not shock me that we reward success.”

Gattaz, an unpopular figure among the left in France, said company leaders “are heroes”.

The head of the PSA supervisory board Louis Gallois said the salary increase was “not at all disproportionate”.

Tavares wasn’t the only one at Peugeot to be rewarded for the dramatic turnaround.

Workers based in France were handed an average bonus of €2,000.

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How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.