French Economics Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, says the government does "not have huge confidence" in PSA Peugeot Citroen's management as the debate surrounding the automaker's decision to axe up to 8,000 jobs takes on an increasingly bitter hue.

Montebourg met PSA CEO, Philippe Varin, last night (18 July) in Paris, details of which meeting both parties are currently refusing to divulge, but the Economics Ministry has sent just-auto a copy of comments the Minister made yesterday that criticise management.

"A year ago, the unions made available an internal Peugeot document dating from August, 2010, which announced the closure of Aulnay," Montebourg said. "And nonetheless, last year the shareholder distributed EUR250m (US$308m) in dividends - a struggling business does not give out dividends, but they did it.

"So...we don't have an awful lot of confidence in what Peugeot management is telling us today. The unions, in a way, made the truth known well before anyone else."

Despite his obvious irritation with PSA, Montebourg recognised as a non-shareholder, the government could do little directly to intervene, but that in the automotive sector, there were elements of "numerous public help" that could be made available from the taxpayer.

The Economic Redevelopment Minister cited levers such as part-time working, reduction in professional taxes, research credit taxes, scrappage scheme and loans of EUR4bn that had been previously pulled, although stopped short of saying whether any of these would be reintroduced.

Montebourg also insisted PSA must talk with its many unions in order to come up with a different outcome to the huge redundancy and closure plan already announced - a plan President Francois Hollande has denounced as 'unacceptable.'

"Negotiate with unions, find an agreement and we will support that deal," said Montebourg. "If not, we will not be in agreement and therefore we will reconsider certain help which has been given to you.

"We are not closed to talks, exactly the opposite. But we need above all that the discussions between Peugeot, the State and the unions happen in an objective way. I was struck by the responsibility of the unions yesterday which I saw in my office.

"I said to them : 'We are going to have an expert who will be on your side and we are going to share the diagnosis of the business...like a doctor in some ways we are going to choose the best remedy that avoids social, human, industrial and economic damage."

Responding to Montebourg's criticism of PSA's shareholder, the automaker sent just-auto a statement outlining the structure of the Peugeot family in the manufacturer.

"All members of the Peugeot family on the Peugeot board and on the FFP [Societe Fonciere, Financiere et de Participations], as well as family members working in the Group, live in France and pay their taxes in France," said the statement.

"The Peugeot family...does not hesitate to dilute its stake when the situation requires. The family has always tracked financial operations to support the Group.

"The Group has systematically renounced paying dividends when the health of the Group required it."