By Gilles Guillaume and Giulio Piovaccari
PARIS (Reuters) -Stellantis said on Tuesday it would provide financial support worth up to 1,400 euros ($1,350) to most of its employees in France to help them cope with surging inflation and would soon discuss a similar move in Italy. Europe's cost-of-living crisis is putting upward pressure on wage inflation as companies across the continent face demands from workers to cushion the impact of rising prices. As part of its initiative, Stellantis will also bring forward salary negotiations in France, initially scheduled for the start of next year, to December, the carmaker said after talks with unions. Aid to employees in France will include a one-off bonus payment and the possibility to convert three days off for overtime into cash. Some 60% of workers will be eligible for the maximum support while 20% will be entitled to help worth 1,100 euros. The top-earning 20% of workers will not receive anything. "The proposals made by the management and shared with the social partners make it possible to increase the purchasing power of our employees above the level of inflation," said Bruno Bertin, director of Human Resources at Stellantis. A spokesperson for the Franco-Italian group told Reuters Stellantis was managing the inflation topic country by country and would launch talks in Italy in the coming weeks. "Every country is specific, legislation and inflation wise," the spokesperson said, also leaving the door open to similar moves in other areas. "We are working on a co-construction mode with our union partners, respecting local regulations, constraint and timing, in order to make the best proposals to protect both the company and the employees interests." Stellantis operates and produces in several countries in the world, including Italy, Poland, the United States and Canada. Rival carmaker Renault last week offered staff over 1,000 euros in exceptional payments, while retailer Carrefour offered a 2.5% pay hike alongside a 100 euro one-off payment in October and a discount on purchases, unions said. The CFDT, one of France's more moderate trade unions, responded by saying that one-off payments would not resolve the problem of declining purchasing power and that salaries needed to be improved. It is requesting wage talks to start in October. In Italy, Stellantis and unions are starting talks to renew the contract for most of the group's employees in the country, due to expire at year-end. Unions are expected to present their proposal for the new agreement, including for salary increases, next month.
($1 = 1.0373 euros)
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume in Paris and Giulio Piovaccari in Milan; Editing by Mark Porter and Mark Potter)