You were optimistic about the recovery at the end of August, do the new health measures change the outlook?
These measures will have a very heavy direct effect on the sectors concerned, but the most difficult to estimate is the impact on household and business confidence. Psychology matters enormously, as we saw at the time of deconfinement: the recovery was much faster than expected. Are we going to witness the same movement in the other direction? This is the risk. Health indicators are worrying and we can fear new restrictive measures in the coming days.
Are the aid measures announced for the most affected sectors sufficient?
The account is not there even if it remains a first step. Financing partial unemployment 100% and raising the aid from the solidarity fund when an establishment is administratively closed, things are going in the right direction. But a lot of businesses are closed “ economically ”, I am thinking of the event sector, hotel service providers, etc. And for these professionals, the criterion of 80% loss of turnover is too high. These thresholds must be quickly reviewed.
And concerning the stimulus plan, is the account there?
The first merit of this plan is to exist – this is not yet the case in many European states. Several components then correspond to our expectations, such as the reduction in production taxes, well targeted on made in France. The first feedback on the youth plan is very positive, in particular we hope that apprenticeship hires will be close to those in 2019, which were at a record level. We are also mobilizing companies on this objective. Long-lasting partial activity also seems to take off well. It is always said that there is no social dialogue in companies in France, it is proof to the contrary. I nevertheless think that we will have to give a little more time, beyond the 1er November, to negotiate the agreements.
Regarding the counterparties to the recovery plan, Laurent Berger (CFDT) is asking for an assent from the CSE. What is your position ?
This recovery plan is already full of conditionalities. The APLD is conditioned on the signing of an agreement with the unions, the youth plan is conditioned on the hiring of a young person and the investment component is conditioned… on an investment! Above all, the level of subsidy is only 10 to 40%, the rest being borne by the companies. The only measure that is not conditional is the reduction in production taxes. Asking the CSE for a reduction of a few thousand euros in production taxes in an SME, that seems absurd to me. We can inform employees as we did for the CICE, especially since there is already today a tool (the economic and social database) which already presents to the CSE all the public aid a company receives. . On the other hand, I am hostile to an assent, the privilege of the decision must remain with the board of directors.
How do you feel about the social climate today?
Rather calm, with the exception of course of companies which are in the spotlight of the news because of the announcement of social plans which are sometimes legitimately unwelcome. The crisis has in fact boosted social dialogue. We talked about the 300 APLD agreements, they come after nearly 10,000 return-to-work agreements. At the inter-professional level, we have negotiations on teleworking which have started and another on occupational health which is progressing well.
You recognize today the need for a strong intervention of the State. Have you, who are a staunch liberal, the crisis made you change your mind about his role?
It is obvious that a State in time of war does not have the same role as in time of peace and we are in time of war. In a pandemic period, the role of the State when it closes restaurants is to financially compensate for the stoppage of activity. And it is a good investment because it makes it possible to preserve the working tool and therefore the jobs which will generate tax revenue when the time comes. We must be able at this totally new moment in economic history to examine things realistically and not on the basis of presuppositions or convictions.
Now, if we wonder about the role that the State should have once the pandemic has stopped, I think that we will then have to debate the freedom of the individual and the entrepreneurial initiative in the face of the power of the regal .