Wednesday, February 21

Macron caves in to rioters with minimum wage rise



Emmanuel Macron has promised to raise the minimum wage as he acknowledged he was partially responsible for weeks of nationwide protests.

The French president addressed the country for the first time since anti-tax protests by the Gilet Jaunes (yellow vests) turned into violent rioting in Paris two weekends ago after rolling on since 17 November.

He acknowledged anger and indignation among the public over the cost of living, but warned no indulgence would be given to people behind the violence.

The beleaguered leader said no anger justifies looting shops or attacking police, adding that both threaten France’s cherished liberty.

They include a €100 (£90) a month increase to the minimum wage from next year, which the prime minister had promised before.

The minimum wage was set at €1,498 a month pre-tax in 2018, and €1,185 after tax.

Mr Macron, who said he may have given an impression “not to care” about the concerns of ordinary citizens, also promised to speed up tax relief for struggling workers.

He pledged to abolish taxes on overtime pay from 1 January, several months before schedule.

All of the measures offered had been demanded by the increasingly violent protesters, who claimed Mr Macron’s decisions were favouring the rich.

However, he did not abolish the fuel tax hike which had started the riots in the first place.

Olivier Dussopt, junior minister for public accounts, told BFM TV. the measures would cost €8bn-10bn

The president, a 40-year-old former investment banker, struck a humble tone as he accepted criticism of his leadership style in a televised address.

We probably have not been able for a year and a half to bring quick enough and strong enough responses, he said.

I know that I have hurt some of you with my statements.

Their distress doesn’t date from yesterday. We have ended up getting used to it. These are forty years of malaise that have come to the surface, he added.

Mr Macron is seen by many in France as arrogant he told an unemployed man he could find a job if he crosses the street, and advised retirees not to complain about pension cuts.

Ahead of his address, he met local and national politicians, union representatives and business leaders to hear their concerns.