Job reforms satisfy no one as French bosses threaten revolt

France’s socialist government is taking the heat from both sides as French business leaders threaten all out war over the watered down labour reform bill.

Job reforms satisfy no one as French bosses threaten revolt
The word MEDEF, which are the initials of France's leading employers union are changed to "Merde", meaning "shit". Photo: AFP

The French government's attempts to overhaul the labour laws and make them less rigid are showing just how difficult it is to bring about any kind of meaningful reform in France.

The main aim of the government’s reforms is to soften the laws to give bosses, especially those in charge of small and medium-sized firms, more leeway in being able to fire people when times are hard.

This, the government claims, will help boost recruitment and cut record unemployment, which in turn would boost President François Hollande's ever-so-slim chances of being re-elected next year.

But the reforms have thoroughly cheesed off student groups, high schools pupils and many on the left including hardline unions like Force Ouvrier and the CGT. They say the bill panders to business at the expense of the livelihoods of ordinary workers.

But ironically the reforms have left those bosses who in theory stood to benefit equally irate.

After attempting to appease the tens of thousands of angry protesters who have regularly pounded the streets,the government reacted by watering down the reforms.

But in a bid to please one side, the government infuriated employers groups, who are now threatening all out war.

Although it’s unlikely we’ll see French businessmen and women in suits lining up in the streets throwing their laptops at lines of CRS riot police, they are threatening to hurt authorities in other ways.

SEE ALSO: Why France's labour reforms bill is a complete disaster

(French PM Manuel Valls with Medef chief Pierre Gattaz. Photo: AFP) 

The head of France’s biggest employers group Medef, Pierre Gattaz (on the right above) blew his lid on Tuesday, threatening to pull out of negotiations over separate reforms to unemployment benefits, if the reforms were not altered in their favour.

Gattaz’s outburst included the words “nonsense”, “delirium” and he talked of a “scribbled policy” as he blasted the government’s reform that only a few weeks ago he had supported.

“I solemnly call for this text to be corrected quickly,” said Gattaz. “I demand the government change the bill to recapture the initial ambition to create jobs in our country,” he said, before denouncing a bill which will do nothing and could even be “counterproductive”. 

He and his members were angry that the government watered down reforms including scrapping a plan to limit pay-outs to sacked workers, something bosses had long demanded.

And they lamented the significant change from the original text that meant small and medium-sized companies would not be able to unilaterally introduce flexible work practices into their working week.

(Demonstrators walk past a cardboard cut-out depicting the Nazi eagle with the MEDEF (French employers' association) logo as people take to the streets of Lille.)

But what has angered company bosses more than anything is a plan by the government to impose a higher tax on temporary CDD contracts, in the hope firms will be persuaded to hand out permanent contracts.

“The first version of the law was going in the right direction,” he said, but the latest version has “provoked an immense disappointment and worry” among bosses.

“Today we are at breaking point,” said Gattaz.

“The bill simply does not give the companies the necessary tools to develop and to create jobs. There is a real distrust towards entrepreneurs in this text,” he added.

Another employers group the CGPME has already threatened to kick up a stink if the bill is passed as it is now.

So Hollande finds himself stuck in the middle of two factions that readily detest each other, as he battles desperately to cut unemployment but somehow keep his dwindling support among the left.

Instead of getting into bed with either side, it appears he thinks the best solution is to keep jumping from one bed to another in a bid to keep both sides satisfied.

But unfortunately for him, he’s left both sides frustrated and even more desperate to get what they want.



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French trade union chief slams UK and US over lack of workers’ rights

France does not want to treat its workers like the UK and US, with zero hours contracts and no protection for the unemployed, Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT, France's biggest trade union, has said.

French trade union chief slams UK and US over lack of workers' rights
Photo: AFP
Last year Martinez and his leftist union fought an unsuccessful battle with President Emmanuel Macron over a raft of reforms aimed at freeing up France's rigid jobs market.
Those controversial reforms cut into the power of France's trade unions and made it easier for firms to lay off staff.
Martinez believes Macron is influenced by the “Anglo-Saxon” model but he does not want to see the same situation in France. 

“Anglo-Saxon countries like the UK and US are Macron's model…his inspiration,” Martinez told a gathering of journalists from the Anglo American Press Association including The Local. 

“I saw an excellent Ken Loach film recently, 'I, Daniel Blake'. And if you think that is an example of a modern society…well,” he shrugged. 
“We don't want to have zero-hours contracts and no rights for the unemployed,” he said.


French labour reforms: What's actually going to change for workers in France

Photo: AFP

Controversial zero-hour contracts stipulate that the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours while the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered.
“Macron is trying to conduct politics away from the unions,” Martinez said. “Political parties have never been as distant from the world of workers as they are now.”

Martinez also had a dig at China, saying: “We don't want to be like China where children are working in factories”. 
He went on to question why Macron hadn't brought up this, and other human rights' issues, on his recent trip there, instead of just “giving them a horse.”
The formidable union leader has been at the helm of the far-left (once Communist) CGT since 2015. 
And since then he has done his best to act as the thorn in the side of the French presidency. 
However, in 2017 the once hugely powerful CGT failed to stop the reform of France's enshrined labour code, as President Emmanuel Macron swept to power and started carrying out the dramatic changes to workers' rights that he had promised.
These included giving small companies in particular more freedom to negotiate working conditions with their employees, rather than being bound by industry-wide collective agreements negotiated by trade unions. 
In 2016 when socialist president Francois Hollande was attempting to reform France's labour code, changes were ditched due to pressure from the unions as demonstrations caused disruption across the country.