What Is a ‘Decent Wage’? France’s Michelin Raises a Debate.

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June Zaccone

Apr 27, 2024, 1:13:23 PMApr 27
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What Is a ‘Decent Wage’? France’s Michelin Raises a Debate.    

By Liz Alderman

The tire maker vowed to ensure that none of its workers would struggle to make ends meet.


Last week, the 134-year-old company, which has 132,000 workers at 131 factories in 26 countries, announced that it would guarantee all of its employees a “decent wage” wherever they were in the world, part of a broader social plan intended to ensure that none of its workers would have to struggle to make ends meet.....

Mr. Menegaux declined to divulge how much Michelin’s lowest-paid workers around the world had been earning, but said their pay was higher than the minimum wage where they lived, which he described as “not a decent salary.” He added that a living wage was a way to help move employees “at the bottom of the ladder up.”....

In creating its “decent wage,” the company, known for its rubbery Michelin Man mascot, referred to standards set by the United Nations Global Compact: a salary enabling a family of four to live “decently” in the city where they work. That means not running out of money before the end of the month after paying basic expenses and being able to save and spend modestly on goods or leisure activities, Mr. Menegaux said.....

Michelin turned to the Fair Wage Network, a nongovernmental organization based in Switzerland, to assess its salary structure. The resulting study found that 5 percent, or around 7,000, of Michelin’s employees worldwide were not earning enough.

In response, Michelin adapted its salary scales to the cost of living in cities where its factories operated. In Beijing, the group increased the lowest pay level to 69,312 yuan per year, or a little less than €9,000. In Greenville, N.C., workers’ base pay rose to the equivalent of €40,000 per year.

In France, where the gross minimum wage is €21,203 per year, the company lifted the salaries of its lowest-paid workers to €39,638 in Paris and €25,356 in Clermont-Ferrand, where the company’s headquarters are and where the cost of living is lower than Paris’s.....

...Nicolas Robert, a representative for the Union syndicale Solidaires, one of France’s biggest labor organizations, said of Michelin’s wage pledge. He said workers at the Clermont Ferrand factories who got the living-wage increases earned around €1,700 a month after taxes — not enough to support a family of four without welfare supplements.

“After you pay your housing, food, energy and transport, not much is left,” Mr. Robert said. “What they call a decent salary is far from reality: We have many workers who have been in survival mode since inflation exploded.”....

June Zaccone
National Jobs for All Network
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