Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Strike while the iron is hot

...or at least when Spring is in the air. After a long hard winter, today had that first spring like quality; warm sunshine, people sitting outside the cafes of Bordeaux drinking coffee and the hint in the air that the Spring strike season is upon us. You know, that time of year when planes, trains and buses are cancelled on a regular basis.

Every year in France the strike season starts in spring and continues until the end of June when people take their sacred summer holidays in July and August. This season promises to be an interesting one, while things have been building up slowly, Friday night's storming of the Sorbonne has ratcheted up the debate around the CPE and the CNE.

I have been meaning to write a post on the French love affair with TLA's and MLA's (Three/Multiple Letter Acronyms), but the Contrat Premier Embauche and the Contrat Nouvelle Embauche are the reason for all the current fuss. As I mentioned before, the French economy is blowing off jobs at a rate of knots - manufacturing is shrinking and whatever can be outsourced is being outsourced. I am no fan of globalization and I can see what it's doing to the French economy, which is trying to cope by creating jobs in the service sector.

Flipping burgers, or if you are lucky, marketing cellphones are the McDo Boulots that are meant take the place of the kinds of jobs where you had a sense of security and future. Many years of worker's struggles built up a hefty set of labour laws and social security in France, which in their own way stifle the creation of employment.

The government has to create jobs, or face an unemployed population who aren't paying any tax (which is meant to keep the government in the style they have become accustomed to) and draining away an already in-debted social security system.

The employers would rather be able to hire and fire at will, pay less social charges and they are thoroughly keen on the new legislation. Workers on the other hand want a sense of job security that isn't provided for in the new legislation - a 2 year trial period is the silliest piece of labour legislation I've ever heard of.

Not that I have any say in the matter, but if I did I'd start by cutting the tax rate and facilitating the creation of new businesses. Starting a business in France is like trying to row a boat in the desert. The ethic in France is that the state will provide and no one even thinks of employing themselves, but considering what you have to go through to do it, its not worth the hassle.

France needs more jobs, and simplifying woker's right and the labour code is what the government needs to be doing. Stripping workers of rights is a recipe for disaster and this strike season promises to test the mettle of the government. If Dominique lasts until the end of June, he may well be France's next President, but should he be sidelined, then Petit Nicolas might have a clear run for the 2007 election, and that my friends is another whole ball-game, not even petanque.

OK Now.

1 comment:

pete* said...

I have to agree. Coming from the UK where we have some of the worst employees rights in Europe, creating 2 year probationary periods is not the way to go, and will only be abused by employers who thrive at the low prospect, high-turnaround, bottom end of the job market.

...I very much expect my old employer "The R'Us" and many other companies in the service industry to will be dismissing employees after 23 months for no reason whatsoever!