French jobs summit hit as unions walk out

French President François Hollande's hopes of thrashing out a deal to create more jobs were scuppered when two unions said they would boycott an annual jobs summit on Tuesday. The labour groups accused Hollande of siding with employers.

French jobs summit hit as unions walk out
French PM Manuel Valls, President of the CESE Jean-Paul Delevoye, and President François Hollande arrive at the jobs summit in Paris on Monday. Photo: Benoit Tessier/AFP

A summit aimed at creating half a million badly needed jobs in France got off to a rocky start on Monday, with two major labour organisations saying they would boycott the event.

President François Hollande opened the two-day conference, where he hopes to hammer out a deal to create more jobs to lower France's record unemployment in return for corporate tax and benefit cuts.

But his plans were dashed when the CGT and Force Ouvriere (FO) union federations said they would shun crucial talks scheduled for Tuesday, accusing Hollande of siding with employers.

The embattled French head of state has been trying to fine-tune his so-called Responsibility Pact, which offers businesses €40 billion ($54 billion) worth of cuts to taxes and social benefit charges in exchange for a pledge to create some 500,000 jobs by 2017.

Hollande urged companies "to join in the process urgently to achieve concrete results" saying the talks should not devolve into "perpetual one-upmanship with unilateral demands".

The summit comes against a backdrop of record unemployment in the eurozone's second-largest economy, where 3.38 million people are out of work.

France's high jobless rate was a key factor behind humiliating election defeats for Hollande's Socialists this year.

The unions were angered by Prime Minister Manuel Valls's decision last week to defer a scheme to offer early retirement to those in physically demanding jobs, following complaints from leading employers union Medef that it was too costly.

Medef has also threatened to boycott the summit.

Union officials accused Valls of having contempt for workers and not consulting them before making key decisions.

FO chief Jean-Claude Mailly said on Monday there was a "fly in the ointment" in the dialogue, while CGT head Thierry Lepaon said Medef had "obtained what it wanted even before the start of the conference".

Lepaon said Vall's closing address due on Tuesday "does not merit our presence".

'Take money and run'

Hollande's embattled government has pledged to cut state spending by €50 billion between 2015-2017 to finance cuts to corporate cuts designed to make companies more competitive and attract investment.

But the scheme is still woolly and it is yet to be worked out exactly how the government can force companies to create a specified number of jobs.

Adding to the government's problems, France's powerful unions have accused the government of failing to make employers keep their end of the bargain.

They are particularly incensed by Valls delaying the early retirement scheme for those in tough jobs under a new points system.

Under this scheme, people engaged in demanding jobs – working nights, exposed to loud noise or heavy loads or performing repetitive tasks – would gain extra training or early retirement as compensation.

The so-called "hardship accounts" were supposed to come into force in January 2015 but have now been delayed by a year, Valls announced last week.

The prime minister, while making the announcement, said "the ball is in the employees' court," further angering the unions, who viewed it as a capitulation to business.

Unions have dubbed the Responsibility Pact an "austerity pact" and accuse Valls of giving in to "blackmail" by big business.

More broadly, union leaders say talks on the hiring targets have failed to make real progress.

Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, the first secretary of the Socialist party, appeared to side with the unions on Monday, saying the Medef was only interested in one thing: "To take the money and run."

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How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.