Op-ed in a major national daily newspaper, e-mail to all of its employees, or advertisement, to announce his support for a candidate, all means are good to encourage the public to vote in presidential elections. Zoom in on a practice that bosses consider to be their responsibility, but that others see as disturbing. The two leaders explain their approach.
The 1.500 employees of Westaflex (group Poujoulat) had the surprise of receiving, on the 14th of April last, a letter from the president of the management board of their company, Frédéric Coirier, which committed to make “the choice of responsibility” at the time of putting their ballot paper in the ballot box, and warned against “promises unrealistic“. An approach is rare that reminds one of Jean-Luc Petithuguenin, chairman of Paprec group (collection and recycling of industrial and household waste) : he had published a column in the daily The World and addressed, at the same time, an e-mail to its 4,500 employees to protest the government’s economic program of Marine Le Pen, insisting on the negative impact that would have an exit from the Euro on their business.
Deter employees from voting for the extreme ?
Thibault Petithuguenin, a spokesperson for the group explains : “This exit from the Euro would lead to a devaluation in an instant the currency of 25 %, which would have a direct impact with the increase of our debt of€ 150 Million, with no assets in the face. A harmful situation which would have consequences on the job…“. The approach of the president of Paprec was, according to him, “in the idea to warn all the employees about this situation, but not in the idea to direct the vote, or say, don’t vote for so-and-so“. He said : “It is the responsibility of the leader in the business of giving information“.
At Poujoulat, the mail is more subtle : “We are currently witnessing a proliferation of proposals fancier and more expensive. These proposals are not sustainable because our country is already weighed down under debt. If he continues on the path of the debt, our country will soon have control of its own destiny. Think of our children who will, if nothing changes, face the wall !“. The chairman of the management board of Poujoulat continues : France should “adapt their lifestyle to their means (…) The State and communities should spend better and a little less“. A little further on, the letter argues : “Europe is not perfect” but it “guarantees peace” and “it is a huge market in which the group Poujoulat benefits“. Out of the european Union “would be a grave mistake with irreversible consequences, “says Frédéric Coirier, who drives the point : “The debate [had] been nipped by a business and controversy. (…) Make the choice of the responsibility, and beware of unrealistic promises, they are often the aftermath is grim“. The officer defends himself to give an instruction of vote, but the position eliminates, de facto, half of the declared candidates hostile to Europe, as Marine Le Pen, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, or, less clearly, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Contacted by Batiactu, Frédéric Coirier explains : “The sending of a mail to the employees has nothing exceptional. They have the habit of receiving regularly to discuss market conditions, our successes but also the opportunities and difficulties encountered by companies of the Group Poujoulat. We meet on a regular basis“. He continues : “My desire was to educate teams on risks to the companies of the Group if France was to depart from Europe and not continue its efforts to improve competitiveness. I stand before all the company, its development and employment, not a specific candidate. We need an open european market where we export more and more of a France competitive because we manufacture most of our products. Each and every employee is of course free and responsible and should be allowed to vote as he wishes“. But his initiative has been variously appreciated.
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It is an intrusion in the private sphere, according to the trade unions of Westaflex, who see it as an indoctrination policy and “a new paternalism that aimed to defend its interests” at the expense of those workers. The union local of the CGT Tourcoing has even printed a tract entitled “My boss, the genius, thinks for you !” while the employees of the unit said that they felt “infantilized with this attempt to influence the vote“. At Paprec, the reactions were less epidermal, according to Thibault Petithuguenin : “internally, they have been good. On the other hand, supporters of Marine Le Pen we have promised the rope if she were to be elected…”. He concedes that it is rare that a president speaks so directly to its employees and to take a position so clearly. And he says that no lawyer has been consulted in advance in order to ensure the legality of this action of “lobbying” is intended to inform the choice of voters.
Others have opted for a more personal approach and committed, as Olivier Sarguez, designer and executive officer of the agency Sarguez & Partners, who notably designed the new face of the Euralille shopping centre. He offered a display ad, half-page in les Echos on Friday, April 21, to shout his support to Emmanuel Macron, which list everything that the contractor recognizes him : “He thinks by himself, it is not policy, it is undertaking“… The boss praises his qualities of pragmatism, honesty, or ability to speak in “English and european“. At the end of this list, Olivier Sarguez said they were “ready to hire Emmanuel Macron in the very large company in France“. Roland Castro, architect, was also seated in the favour of the leader of the power up !, from the month of December 2016. He had explained this to Batiactu why he was going to vote for that candidate. Far from being confined to the secrecy of the voting booth, the choice of certain decision-makers in the CONSTRUCTION industry appears, therefore, high and strong. But will they be followed ?