It is the major social shock absorber of the employees of a company that has been taken down.
The "wage guarantee" in the extended name - the Association for the management of the guarantee scheme for employee claims (AGS) -, which automatically takes out the checkbook to pay employees as soon as a company goes bankrupt, is threatened by a new reform.
On the eve of an unprecedented social crisis, with the key to a predictable tsunami of bankruptcy when public aid stops, the executive is preparing to review the judicial liquidation procedures.
The project had however been blocked by Edouard Philippe when he was Prime Minister, at the request of the Medef.
"Today there is a lobby which, obviously, is more powerful than the Medef," quips a heavyweight employer.
Taken out of the boxes in July 2020, the case has been the subject of a particularly violent underground duel for four months, between the employers and trade unions, which asked the government to bury it and the judicial representatives (who were paid on the business failures) favorable to reform.
What is it about ?
Of two texts of ordinances carried by the Chancellery, against which employers and unions do not take offense.
One of the objectives of this project is, in fact, to modify the order of priority of creditors, foremost among which is the AGS today.
Behind the technical aspects, the stake is financial.
Public treasury, Urssaf, agents, administrators, banks, suppliers ... the list is long of those who hope to recover, during the liquidation by the commercial court, the sums due on the sale of the building, the factory, the furniture, machinery, stocks… in other words, the assets of the bankrupt company.
However, everything depends on the place occupied by each in the hierarchy of creditors.
In the government's copy, the AGS fund, a priority until now to be reimbursed up to the level of salary claims, would go behind the administrators and legal representatives.
With the risk that there is not much left.
This sleight of hand will automatically have an impact on the financial balance of AGS.
60% of its funds come from employer contributions (0.15% of payroll) and 40% from the reimbursement of salary claims.
In 2019, it paid 1.5 billion euros to more than 183,600 employees on the floor.
According to some forecasts, in 2021 the figure could double.
In 2020, contributions are down 9% due to exemptions in the event of partial unemployment or the deferral of charges granted to companies.
To anticipate the dreaded tsunami of defaults, the AGS has secured a loan of 1.5 billion euros (which will only be used when needed).
History of facing the disaster scenario and being able to pay salaries for 2021 and 2022. “There is 400 million euros in cash.
It is a management of good father which would be endangered by the reform ”, denounces Patrick Martin, the deputy president of the Medef, which restored since 2019 in the house with the new direction of the AGS .
According to the calculations of the employers' association, with the reform, the losses for the scheme could reach 300 million euros per year.
Is the government ready to back down?
In recent days, according to our information, the Elysee has increased the number of phone calls to try to calm the wrath of employers and unions.
"As long as nothing is written to ensure that the AGS regime will not be demoted in rank, we will continue to be worried," warns Michel Beaugas, of FO.
"These are thousands of employees who otherwise will be in financial distress," he continues.
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The CFDT requests the withdrawal of this draft ordinance.
"If the AGS is in danger because of this text and recovers less money, tomorrow it is the rights of employees who will be reduced.
The employers think about it, we are not naive!
»Fears Patricia Ferrand, of the CFDT.
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Same analysis at the CFE-CGC where Jean-François Foucard fears "at the end of the day a turn of the screw of rights with a drop in the ceiling of 82,000 euros, which will penalize in particular technicians, engineers and executives".
For him, “the only turn of the screw that there is to do, it is on the side of the agents to control their sometimes astronomical costs!
If the reform is maintained, the deputy chairman of Medef, Patrick Martin, dotted the i's: "If the resources of the AGS are cut, either we degrade the support of salaries and that, that ' is really for us the last extremity, that is to say one increases the contributions paid by the companies and it is really not the time.
So we oppose it.
A very critical note
“The regime is not perfect, but it has proven itself: it is protective and costs nothing to the State or to employees.
Why make the skin of the AGS today?
Asks an official of the liberal think tank Thomas More, which publishes a note this Wednesday.
One of its authors is none other than Franck Morel, the former social advisor of Edouard Philippe (now associate lawyer at Flichy Grangé), who delivers with Sébastien Laye, researcher at the Institute, a review in order of the reform project of the Ministry of Justice.
At the heart of the matter: the defense of AGS.
The headings of the chapters are sufficient to summarize its content: "A poorly constructed and catastrophic reform project for employees and the regime", "A justification for the reform which does not hold up and insufficient prior consultation".
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“What is at stake is nothing less than a quarter of the funding for the plan, which comes from the collection of advances.
It is the entire financial balance of employee protection that would be shattered by the reform project, ”says Franck Morel.
The note recommends in particular to sanctuary the first place of the AGS, but also to open the protection to the independents.
To finance it, they propose, while maintaining the ceiling of guaranteed amounts (82,000 euros), to introduce a less generous sub-ceiling for damages.
“With our proposals, we are offering the government a way out from above.
Only the agents welcome this reform which "clarifies" an "extremely complex order of distribution of claims", but "in no way affects the rights of employees", says Christophe Basse, president of the National Council of administrators and judicial representatives ( CNAJMJ).
The Department of Justice did not respond to us.
Its website explains that the order aims to transpose the European directive "restructuring and insolvency".
False, retort employers and unions, denouncing an “overinterpretation” of this directive which does not modify the hierarchy of creditors.