Alcatel-Lucent, the telecoms equipment maker, on Friday endured a raucous annual shareholder meeting dominated by anger at job losses and executive pay packages.
Formed by the merger of France’s Alcatel and Lucent of the US at the end of last year, the group in February announced new restructuring targets that envisaged the shedding of 12,500 jobs.
Friday’s shareholder meeting was disrupted by several dozen union members dressed in orange shirts, who drowned out speeches from the podium by blowing whistles and horns.
They distributed leaflets attacking the job-loss plan, claiming it led to an ageing workforce; weakened research and development; and compromised innovation and responsiveness.
Having booed a slide that showed a map of Alcatel-Lucent’s foreign operations, the protesters left before the meeting was opened to questions, singing “We Shall Overcome”.
Small shareholders then grilled the company on executive pay, another source of union anger. Serge Tchuruk, Alcatel-Lucent’s chairman and the former chief executive of Alcatel, was last year awarded €5.7m ($7.7m) to compensate him for Lucent’s Pat Russo being made chief executive of the combined group.
This sum, paid in accordance with a 1995 contract, was on top of the €2.5m he received in salary and bonus in 2006. Ms Russo, meanwhile, will receive two years of salary and bonus if she loses her job.
One shareholder said employees and investors – and not the executives – had borne the brunt of recent hardship. “The sacrifices should be shared by all,” he said. However, shareholders overwhelmingly passed the resolution authorising Ms Russo’s golden parachute arrangement, with 89.5 per cent of votes in favour.
The dilution of Alcatel’s Frenchness by the merger has raised hackles among some in France. One shareholder took exception to what he considered to be the inelegant use of the French language in one of the resolutions, particularly the clumsy repetition of certain words.
However, another investor apologised to Ms Russo, “in her capacity as a woman and a foreigner”, for the loud heckling to which she was subjected.