• France's news in English

Unions furious at plans to scrap bank holidays

The Local · 15 Sep 2014, 12:39

Published: 15 Sep 2014 12:39 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
Union leaders have reacted furiously to proposals by France's employers' federation, Medef, to scrap two bank holidays a year and chip away at the minimum wage and the 35-hour working week.
The proposals, which also included allowing shops to open on Sundays, are from a list of 50 ideas which the federation claims would free up France's notoriously rigid labour market and create a million jobs in a country where a record 3.4 million people are looking for work.
"We believe that we have not tried everything to fight unemployment, we have just tried things that haven’t worked anywhere and forgotten about things that have worked everywhere,” Medef said in a report on its proposals, quoted by the French business daily Les Echos.
To achieve those targets Medef proposed axing two of the 11 bank holidays per year, allowing exceptions from paying minimum wage to certain workers and tweaking 35-hour work week protections. The reduced labour rules would allow the bosses to negotiate when overtime pay is required and how much it would cost the company.
In Medef's view just allowing all businesses to be open on Sunday would create up to 200,000 jobs in tourism and up to 100,000 in commerce and distribution. As it stands only certain businesses are legally allowed to open on Sundays, such as stores in tourist areas and certain supermarkets. 
Medef admitted that its proposals might "appear aggressive or caricatural to some." That was exactly how union leaders saw them.
"We reject all these proposals," said FO union leader, Jean-Claude Mailly. "What will they propose next, that we start making children work?"
CFDT leader Laurent Berger also slammed the proposals and accused the Medef of "provocation."
He told RTL radio that none of these ideas had been mentioned last week when unions met with the employers' delegates in ongoing government-sponsored talks aimed at creating more jobs.
The Medef proposals had been due to be made public on Wednesday but, in the wake of the outraged union reaction, it put off the report's release for a week. It also said the proposals cited by Les Echos were from a draft version and may not be included in the final document.
Economic growth in France ground to a halt in the first six months of the year and President François Hollande has been unable to live up to his promise to bring down unemployment.
His strategy for pulling France out of the mire is his much-vaunted Responsibility Pact, which will cut social charges for businesses by €40 billion ($53 billion) in exchange for them creating 500,000 jobs by 2017.
Story continues below…
This will be financed by 50 billion euros in public spending cuts, but the plans sparked a rebellion on the left flank of Hollande's ruling Socialist Party.
Despite regular reports arguing that France's 35-hour week is a drag on the economy, the French are attached to the measure that allows many of them to have a day and half off a month on top of their already generous annual holiday allowance.
They also cherish their 11 bank holidays a year, several of which fall in the month of May and result in few French doing a full-week's work in that month.
By : Rory Mulholland
Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available