Debut under tension for the new CEO of Orange


Christel Heydemann, CEO of Orange, arrives at the Medef summer conference at the Longchamp racecourse, in Paris, on August 30, 2022.

The state of grace lasted less than a hundred days. On July 8, ninety-four days after her appointment, Christel Heydemann, the new CEO of Orange, answers live video, on the group's internal network, to questions from employees. Between sofas and cushions, the staging is intended to be relaxed. But the decor struggles to hide the tension. The questions “are not all tender”cautiously warns the host of the show, herself an Orange executive.

Of the 918 questions selected, many revolve around the CEO's salary, potentially one and a half times higher than that of her predecessor, Stéphane Richard, while, at the same time, the planned increase for employees is capped at 3 % for 2022. Christel Heydemann could receive up to 2.25 million euros this year, including 1.35 million variable.

“I hear the anger and anxiety related to purchasing power”says Christel Heydemann in this video seen by The worldand “I am not here to defend the level of executive compensation” in general. But still, "on my salary, many things said are not real"annoyed the leader: “My fixed salary is lower than that of Stéphane Richard (…), and in theory I will only increase my salary compared to my predecessor if the company outperforms, and therefore this will mean that all the employees will have had bonuses, because we will have exceeded our objectives. »

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the “one woman show” by Christel Heydemann, in the words of the CGT, does not make the unions laugh. " It's shocking ", summarizes Pascale Abdessamad, elected SUD-PTT. The video has helped to strengthen the alignment of trade unions: in chorus, they have been calling for several weeks for a reopening of discussions on wages, after the disagreement on the mandatory negotiations for 2022. “We are ready to discuss the implementation of the provisions authorized by the recent law on purchasing power, in order to offset part of the effects of inflation, but taking into account the limited financial room for maneuver of the group. », replies Gervais Pellissier, deputy general manager of Orange. A central social and economic committee is convened on this subject on September 22.

"Fragile social climate"

Orange is not the only French company to experience this kind of wage pressure in the face of inflation. But the unanimous mobilization of the operator's unions reflects a deeper malaise. Implemented after Covid-19, the reorganization of offices in “flex desk”, according to which each employee no longer has an assigned workstation, feeds a feeling of discomfort. Even more after the failure, this summer, of negotiations on a revaluation of the telework bonus. The departure plan targeting the oldest employees creates work overloads in certain trades. And the reinforced savings measures – reduced travel, canceled seminars… – add to the ambient bad mood.

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