Emmanuel Macron will push for a cap on excessive executive pay should he be re-elected president after he described as “shocking and excessive” the €19m (£15.7m) pay packet handed to the head of carmaker Stellantis.
Macron, who is campaigning in the run-up to the final vote for the French presidency on 24 April against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, told France Info radio that he was in favour of an EU-wide ceiling for top executives’ pay.
The multimillion-pound payout handed last year to chief executive Carlos Tavares, when French carmaker PSA merged with Italian-US rival Fiat Chrysler to form Stellantis, one of the world’s largest carmakers, has emerged as a prominent issue in the election.
Macron and Le Pen are attempting to woo the 7.7 million people who voted in the first round for left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has described the final run-off as “a choice between two evils”.
A recent poll for France 24 showed 34% of Melenchon voters saying they would back Macron against 30% for Le Pen, while 36% were undecided.
“We need to fight at a European level so that remuneration can’t be excessive,” Macron said. “We need to set ceilings and have governance for Europe that make these things acceptable. If not, society will explode at any given moment.
“People can’t be facing purchasing power problems … and then see these sorts of sums.”
Beyond his base salary of €2m, Tavares is to receive €7.5m in performance-based pay, €2.4m in retirement contributions and a €1.7m bonus related to the success of the merger. In addition, he will also receive €5.6m-worth of company shares, according to Stellantis.
In 2017, PSA chief Tavares acquired the European operations of General Motors, giving it control of several plants, including the Ellesmere Port factory on Merseyside, which saw its last Astra leave the production line last week ahead of a shift to electric car models.
Stellantis was created in 2019 when the boards of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Peugeot owner, Groupe PSA, approved a €40bn (£35bn) merger to rival Toyota, Daimler, GM and Volkswagen.
“These sorts of sums are astronomic,” Macron said, who was backed by 9.7 million people in the first round against Le Pen’s tally of 8.1 million.
“We need to do what we’ve done with minimum tax rates and the fight against tax evasion. We need to convince our European partners to bring about a reform that will provide a framework for executive pay.”
Earlier this week, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal characterised Tavares’ renumeration as “obviously not normal figures”.
Le Pen, who is facing off against Macron in the second and final round of the presidential election on 24 April, has also been drawn into the debate.
“It’s shocking, but less shocking than for others,” she said, before appearing to support the bonuses as a reward for the merger deal. “For once he obtained good results,” she said.