The Michelin brothers, André and Édouard, who established social paternalism for their company’s employees more than 100 years ago, would applaud the new social guarantees that the global tire giant is generalizing today for its 132,000 employees. Anxious to provide families with food, housing, clothing, healthcare, children’s education and even savings, Michelin’s current managers have re-appropriated the principles of the founders. The latter had created parks of Michelin houses near the Cataroux factory in Clermont-Ferrand, schools, cooperatives, dispensaries, etc. to cover the essential needs of employees and employ them sustainably from father to son.

The Clermont-Ferrand group is now rolling out a “decent salary” for all employees on all continents. This amount, which varies according to each country and even each region, has nothing to do with the minimum wage. Thus in France, this “decent” annual salary for a Michelin employee in Paris stands at 39,638 euros per year and 25,356 euros in Clermont Ferrand while the annual minimum wage reaches 21,203 euros. “The minimum wage in France is not sufficient in the eyes of Michelin to meet what we consider to be a decent salary,” estimates Florent Ménégaux, the president of the Michelin group. This must provide for the needs of a family comprising on average two children and two parents.

In Beijing, Michelin offers its employees 69,312 yuan, two and a half times more than the local average salary. In the United States in Greenville, the pay of a tire manufacturer worker ($42,235) is almost three times the minimum amount ($14,790).

“We were convinced that all of our employees benefited from decent salaries according to the criteria defined by the Global Compact, the UN program intended to create a more sustainable society, and of which I am the representative in France for questions of sustainable development, explains the Michelin boss. We turned to an NGO, Fairwage, which carried out an investigation. We realized that this was indeed the case for 95% of them. But that meant 5% were in survival mode. It took three years to convince Michelin itself that salaries should be increased.” From now on, the NGO Fairwage publishes each year an update of the “living wage” by country that Michelin has committed to paying.

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More recently, the firm decided to go further by implementing “universal social protection” for its employees throughout the world. It covers access to care, maternity/adoption leave of 14 weeks and the payment of a capital of at least one year’s salary to the family upon the death of an employee and the payment of a pension. education for children until the end of higher education. “During the Covid epidemic, we had 50 deaths within the group. That’s when we thought of creating the Michelin One Care program,” explains Florent Ménégaux.

A reinvention of the original social policy? “It’s true to our values. We cannot ask our employees to engage in a collective project if they are in survival mode. They need basic remuneration to be able to plan ahead,” explains the manager. Michelin is also seeking to retain the loyalty of its employees whose turnover rate has increased dangerously in recent years. “We had an attrition rate of 7% to 8% in the past. This increased to 12 and 13% in 2021 and 2022, recalls Jean-Claude Pats, the personnel director of the Michelin group. It tends to ebb but it still remains very important for the group.”