Macron was visiting a training centre in the rural Creuse region on Wednesday when he was caught on camera making a disparaging remark apparently aimed at workers of GM&S, more than half of whom face redundancy.
When told that another local factory, located 150 kilometres away from the GM&S plant, was struggling to hire workers, Macron said: “There are some who’d be better off looking for a job there rather than wreaking havoc.”
His remark was widely interpreted as being aimed at the GM&S workers, several of whom were standing outside holding placards and calling on the French president to come and talk to them.
The bankrupt company’s 277 workers have been battling for months against a planned takeover by French firm GMD, which would see all but 120 jobs axed. The case is seen as a test of Macron’s willingness to intervene to save struggling French factories.
Several opposition parties have condemned Macron’s words, which lawmaker Clémentine Autain, of the hard-left France Unbowed party, described as evidence of “gross class contempt”.
Referring to previous controversial remarks by the French president, Oliver Faure, the head of the Socialist group of MPs, slammed Macron’s “contempt for the ‘illiterate’, the ‘slackers’, the ‘nobodies’,” which he claimed contrasted with his “compassion for the very rich”.
A former investment banker, the 39-year-old centrist president is facing growing resistance from trade unions to his pro-business agenda and has provoked unease even among members of his own party with his plans to scrap a long-standing wealth tax.