French unions representing metallurgy workers are due to meet industry owners next week (22 December) in Paris to discuss a 2.5% pay rise request.

The negotiations are crucial as no agreement was forthcoming last year between the CFE-CGC union and the L'UIMM organisation representing metallurgy industries, whose automobile members represent around 17% of its business.

A CFE-CGC spokesman said the UIMM had offered 2%, but the union view was as the economy is improving, it should benefit from the higher pay increase.

"We are aware the economic market has a big impact on the business [but] we think the situation is getting better," CFE-CGC metallurgy vice president Andre Legault told just-auto from France.

"We have had two quarters in 2010 that leave us to think even though it is a fragile recovery, it is a recovery. Today, it seems the global and real salaries are more than the minimum salaries - those who earn the minimum are usually the young hires."

The CFE-CGC spokesman noted it had requested a 1.5% rise last year, but the UIMM had suggested 0.8%. "There was no agreement," he said.

The CFE-CGC represents mainly white collar workers in the metallurgy field, of which around 40% are in the automobile industry.

The annual agreement between CFE-CGC is a collective deal for engineers and executives' minimum salary. Separate negotiations take place for blue collar metallurgy workers within each departement in France.

Legault insisted the CFE-CGC was "not for strikes," but cautioned of "social disruption" if the salary discussions did not bear fruit.

A statement from the union noted: "A second year without agreement would compromise future scheduled negotiations.

"The economic context is becoming a little clearer and it would be desirable if employees - notably young people taken on - can benefit and not just shareholders."

CFE-CGC says it is the principal union in Renault.

The UIMM was not immediately available for comment.