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Nowadays labor questions justifiably concern everyone. When it comes to an industrial plant, one is not satisfied any more to be informed on the quality of its products, on its manufacturing processes, on the nature of its equipment. One wants to know how the workmen are treated there; this concern does not solely lie with the civil servants charged by the government with applying the recent laws for the protection of people employed in the factories; it has existed for a long time among the numerous free associations which are dedicated to the study of social problems and researching the means of solving them peacefully and equitably, and for a long time before that among certain owners and heads of industry concerned with the material interests and moral of their workers.

The heads of the House of Pernod and Sons did not wait to display the benevolent feelings that animate them with regard to their personnel, the explosion of sympathy which has occurred these last few years for the working classes. Indeed, Mr. Bernard Lavergne, senator from Tarn, in his book The Social Evolution published in 1893, notes, in speaking of the House of Pernod and Sons, that "sympathy for the workman is traditional in that establishment."

This sympathy was illustrated in 1871 by an important fact in the history of the House of Pernod and Sons. Without knowledge of what the state of the matter was elsewhere in the country, Mssrs. Louis and Fritz Pernod spontaneously introduced their personnel to participation in a benefit plan and, after careful consideration, they decided that the best form for that plan to take was that of a retirement fund. They wanted to create a savings plan so that when the workers could no longer work due to age or infirmity, they would find themselves in charge of a small nest egg by means of which they could either face urgent needs, or start a small business; these savings were also to constitute an invaluable resource for families deprived of their breadwinner by death.

The proposed goal has been fully attained in the 23 years the plan has functioned to the complete satisfaction of everyone concerned.

The retirement fund consists of a share determined by the operating profits, contributed each year by the House of Pernod and Sons to its workmen and employees. The funds remain deposited in the firm and are productive interests; each workman receives a booklet which reports to him, at the time of accounting, the share of the benefits in which he is vested.

In order to make sure the workmen do not waste the savings accumulated for their benefit, the rules stipulate that the shares are nontransferable and nondistrainable and that participants can touch their share of the capital only when they leave employment with the firm. The only exception to this rule is for workers who want to acquire a house. Mr. Pernod agreed to that, figuring that settling on real estate is a guarantee against the temptation to waste money to which workmen in possession of movable capital easily succumb.

At the end of each year, all participants are vested in the interest accrued to them that year.

The benefit shares increase with years of service for a period of six years, after which they reach their maximum rate which was in 1894 40% of wages; the minimum rate was 10%.

The retirement fund had grown as of December 31st, 1894 to 267,566.25 francs.

Retiring workmen and heirs to deceased workmen have, since the foundation of the retirement fund, withdrawn the sum of 238,705.25 francs.

We have before us (December 1894) the account booklet of a worker who has participated in the plan since 1871, and whose share has accumulated with interest to a total of 11,351.70 francs.

The firm insures its workmen against accidents; it even pays the premiums itself without making the workmen pay into the pool.

The effective working day is fixed at 11 hours; the minimum wage is 20 centimes per hour for women and 30 centimes per hour for men.

Work is suspended all day on Sunday.

No effort is spared to improve working conditions and to avoid accidents.

Two collections are taken each day for personnel to also have the benefit of Christmas gifts at the end of the year.

Every summer an excursion open to all personnel is organized at the expense of the firm to an interesting town or to some picturesque site. A band recruited almost exclusively from among the workmen of the establishment brightens these outings and contributes at all times to the esprit de corps which is in any case very strong; the workers of the Pernod factory regard themselves as privileged to belong to a firm which assures them of such benefits. Therefore recruitment could not be easier; applications are always numerous and the firm suffers only the embarrassment of having to choose from among the crowds of candidates who show up.

There have never been strikes in the House of Pernod and Sons.

Commonality of interest has rendered the rapport between owners and workers cordial and easy. Time and time again, without any false modesty, the workmen have seized the opportunity to express to their bosses their appreciation for the good policies of which they are the object.

If sympathy for the worker is traditional in the Pernod firm, never has it manifested in the form of interference by the boss in the private life of his subordinates; never has one seen that anxious supervision which amounts to meddling in the slightest details of the life of the worker, to dictate even his political and religious opinions to him. In all cases where discipline in the workplace is not involved, personal freedom is absolutely respected.

In becoming owners of the House of Pernod and Sons, Mssrs. Veil-Picard made a point of preserving the philanthropic institutions created by their predecessors, to which they attach the same value as to the manufacturing processes, the improvement of the equipment, and the reputation of the trademark known and appreciated all over the world.


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Translated by Artemis

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