GDF-Suez workers strike to protest lucrative stock options

GDF-Suez workers strike to protest lucrative stock optionsParis - Gas tanker workers for the French utility GDF-Suez are going on strike to protest the awarding of more than 1.1 million stock options to the company's two senior executives, the online edition of the daily Le Figaro reported on Thursday.

The attribution of 830,000 stock options to company head Gerard Mestrallet and 300,000 to his vice president, Jean-Francois Cirelli, has provoked anger among employees, who are in the process of negotiating with the firm about a pay rise of 7.5 per cent and a one-time payment of 1,500 euros.

The CGT trade union, which has called the open-ended strike, expects 80 per cent of the employees concerned to walk off the job.

The strike is the latest protest in France against the awarding of bonuses, extravagant severance payments and stock options to management in the midst of a recession.

Earlier this week, President Nicolas Sarkozy said there should be no such payments to executives of companies that receive state aid or are undertaking massive layoffs.

An adviser to Sarkozy, Henri Guaino, said Wednesday that companies had until March 31 to put forward proposals regarding the remuneration of executives or the state would act unilaterally.

"This is not an invitation; it's an ultimatum," Guaino told Europe 1 radio.

According to Le Figaro, Sarkozy told law makers from his centre-right UMP party that if the employers did not act soon, "we will draw up a law."

However, such a law would likely only concern companies receiving state aid. GDF-Suez has not received any support from the government. In 2008, the company earned a profit of 6.5 billion euros. (dpa)