Company handout

Viv U subsidizes computers for employees

PARIS — Vivendi Universal chief Jean-Marie Messier personally handed out computers to Parisian garbage men this week as part of a mission to bring the conglom’s employees into the computer age.

Some 30-odd workers employed by Viv U’s refuse collecting subsid Onyx were the first in what looks to be a deluge of takers for an irresistible offer — a new computer and color printer for less than 20 francs ($2.85) a month.

“The refuse workers were simply thrilled to bits,” a company spokesman said Thursday. “Some of them have never touched a computer before and they wouldn’t normally be able to afford one on their salaries.”

The initiative was “very much a reflection of Jean-Marie Messier’s philosophy that everyone should have access to the Internet. He wants to do his part to bridge the digital divide,” the spokesman added.

The offer, launched in January, initially applies to some 110,000 workers in France, but Vivendi Universal is looking into expanding the offer to all of its 260,000 employees around the world.

And if paying a total of $100 over three years is not an attractive enough proposition, Viv U has persuaded the French government to exempt the computers from tax in a further gesture to encourage takers.

The scheme is costing the conglom around $1,140 per employee.

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