PARIS (Reuters) - France’s Bouygues Telecom (BOUY.PA) said on Sunday about 20% of its workforce would be temporarily laid off during the coronavirus crisis and receive compensation for 15 days.
France has launched a package of measures to cushion the economic blow dealt by the coronavirus outbreak, including payments to companies that keep workers on their payroll even if they are not working.
Some unionised workers have criticised financially solid listed companies for seeking to take advantage of state aid when there are smaller firms in greater need of support.
“The partial unemployment scheme is there to deal with the situation when economic activity stops, whatever a company’s size,” Bouygues deputy CEO Didier Casas told Reuters, defending the company’s plan.
He said numbers had been kept to a minimum but that it was impossible, for example, to keep stores open in shopping malls that had been closed down.
Casas dismissed remarks by the CFDT union that the company had reversed a decision to temporarily lay off 800 call centre staff and client advisers after coming under union pressure.
He said Bouygues Telecom put those particular employees under temporary unemployment while it bought equipment that would allow them to work from home, and had acted in accordance with government orders.
“We took that decision to protect them,” Casas said.
The government’s emergency measures to help keep companies afloat are worth 45 billion euros ($49 billion), or 2% of GDP. Under the partial unemployment scheme, a firm pays an employee 84% of their salary, which the state then reimburses.
Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud on Sunday said nearly 220,000 companies had asked the government to reimburse them for putting 2.2 million workers on shorter or zero hours since the coronavirus outbreak.
Casas said that for a 15-day period, Bouygues would make up the difference between an employee’s salary and the state’s contribution. In return for that and for keeping the temporary layoffs to a minimum, employees would have to take a week’s paid leave during the crisis, he added.
Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Frances Kerry and Nick Macfie