Monday, March 27, 2006

France Demos : Mine canary on life support

France has become the mine canary. If the French can't stop this law, the rest as they say, will be history. This is an issue that goes beyond just the French workplace and job contracts, it is an issue that affects everyone who has to work for a living. If the French lose this fight to their government, then its not just French jobs on the line it is yours too because there are some very real precedents being set here and if they are forced through in France they will be arriving on your doorstep next.

The first ugly precedent is the anti-democratic way in which the French government has been behaving. The original CNE (Contrat Nouvelle Embauche - Contract for a New Hire) was essentially passed by decree in June 2005 under an "Emergency Employment Plan" and implemented in Summer 2005 when most people where on holiday. Ruling by decree - great one guys! And don't forget that Dominique de Villepin is not an elected representative, but a political appointee. He has never stood in an election. Beacon of democracy stuff that is for a so-called first world country.

Now if that wasn't enough, the current nasty, the CPE (Contrat Premier Embauche) was also not properly debated or consulted on, but rather railroaded through the French parliament using a special legislative procedure under Article 49.3 of the French constitution. Yes folks, that's right, we are talking dictatorship here. Both of these contracts allow your boss to sack you for no reason during an initial 2 year period. It's like they knew that these contracts were political hot potatoes and would not have made it through the parliament. And there are some pretty good reasons as to why these contracts would not have made it through parliament if anyone had had the chance to question them.

Why? Because these contracts do NOT conform to internationally accepted Standards and Practices. From the ILO website:

"The termination of an employment relationship is likely to be a traumatic experience for a worker and the loss of income has a direct impact on her or his family's well-being. As more countries seek employment flexibility and globalization destabilizes traditional employment patterns, more workers are likely to face involuntary termination of employment at some point in their professional lifetime. At the same time, the flexibility to reduce staff and to dismiss unsatisfactory workers is a necessary measure for employers to keep enterprises productive. ILO standards on termination of employment seek to find a balance between maintaining the employer's right to dismiss workers for valid reasons and ensuring that such dismissals are fair and are used as a last resort, and that they do not have a disproportionate negative impact on the worker."
Which is derived from the Convention concerning Termination of Employment at the Initiative of the Employer (Note: Date of coming into force: 23:11:1985.), which states under Article 4:

"DIVISION A. JUSTIFICATION FOR TERMINATION

Article 4

The employment of a worker shall not be terminated unless there is a valid reason for such termination connected with the capacity or conduct of the worker or based on the operational requirements of the undertaking, establishment or service."
The cherry on the top is that the regulations of both the CNE and CPE, allowing the Employer to terminate the contracts for no reason for a period of 2 years, are not only in contravention of what are internationally accepted standards, but also in contravention of France's exisiting labour laws. Go figure.

So if you hear someone going on about how the French are always protesting, stop and remind them that this time the French are protesting against anti-democratic measures and employment contracts that undermine everbody's job security. In fact you should convince them to show solidarity with the French, because if the French lose now, we all lose.

Images courtesy of libcom.org

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