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Europe: Interview with Adecco’s CEO

06 May 2013

As part of their “Street Day” activities Adecco’s Belgian CEO Patrick De Maeseneire, was interviewed in Brussels Central Station distributing flyers with useful tips for job seekers by SonntagsZeitung

 Commenting on the company’s prospect in France, its largest market, De Maeseneire said the country must urgently solve the enormous structural problems including the national debt, the rigid labour market and the countless strikes. 

In 2011, Adecco said that we want to improve the profitability in France but instead we are losing market share he said.  In addition, although we have finally put our Adecco and Adia brands together there, the reorganization last year did coincided with employee uncertainty.

Asked whether the Hollande government has thwarted his turnaround plans, he answered “no, we are making good progress. But if the government taxes the rich at 75%, this borders close to expropriation” and there is a danger that many business owners will leave the country. 

Moving on to speak about Switzerland De Maeseneire commented: I love the country. The trains run on time, the lakes are clean, the unemployment rate is low, just like the national debt. A successfully functioning system should not be changed. Many companies have moved their headquarters here because of the tax situation, the highly skilled staff and a good education system. 

He is, however, very concerned that the 1:12 Initiative would permanently damage Switzerland as a business location. The initiative has been launched by the young socialists (supported by the SP and Greens) for a “fair salary system”. It requires that top managers can only earn a maximum 12 times more money than the lowest paid employee of the company. More than 100.000 signatures have been collected already.  However he states that “I trust in the electorate, which has proven time and again a sense of proportion”.

Asked what do you think of the minimum wage initiative, he said all these initiatives are playing with Switzerland future. The initiators should often talk with her hairdresser or the host of her family restaurant. My hairdresser says he has fired one of its eight employees if the initiative would be adopted. I do not have anything against minimum wages, but CHF 22 ($23.50) would be too high for SMEs. In the U.S., the minimum wage is $ 7.5. And we can see how this has helped the US to recover.

In Germany he believes that the automotive industry, for example, went very well until August, then the business abated. At present, demand is stable and should continue to recover.  This he feels will have a good impact on Northern Italy, Belgium and the low load, because they are highly dependent on exports to Germany. Asked if this is a little optiomic, De Maeseneire replied “I have been chief of Adecco for or four years and was always pessimistic about Europe. Now I see light at the end of the tunnel for the first time. But it will be a bumpy ride”.

Commenting lastly on the one third who voted to reject the compensation report at Adecco’s last General meeting he said:

Since 2009, our shareholders can vote on the remuneration report, and have always assumed it to about 95%. We will now analyse where the criticism comes from. Whether it was about the transparency, or the amount of compensation. Among institutional investors, however, remuneration is hardly ever an issue. Over the years I have been approached only twice about my salary. What investors much more interested in is the question of whether the managers themselves hold stocks and so in the same boat as the investors.

To read the full article in Germany, click here.

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