Reformation in the Spotlight…No Transformation!
Get ready. The unions will be striking…of course. Didn’t we all know that was going to happen?
They want labor reform, but when it actually becomes a reality, the workers freak out and protest. Such is life in France.
President Emmanuel Macron is asking the French not to be impatient and give him a chance to do the things he promised to do. He’s only been in office a little more than 100 days, yet the CGT, the toughest union he has to face, is declaring war on his labor reforms, which he calls “transformations,” rather than “reformations.” The “transformations” will make hiring and firing legislation more flexible for the employer. The Labor Code is 3,324-pages long (the French do love their rules and regulations!) and makes it very difficult to lay off incompetent workers, leaving no room for new talent. With unemployment at 9.5%, one out of four young people are out of work. He intends to push through these reforms through parliament by decree this summer.
In response, massive street protests are expected on Tuesday, September 12th (the same day as our “Rentrée” Après Midi) workers, pensioners and of course, the “youth” along with other unions. We can expect other protests to follow this one, too!
Macron wants to overhaul what is being called France’s “draconian labor code.” There are a lot of draconian laws in France (my opinion) — meaning small offenses with heavy punishments, and I’m hoping he’ll have the guts to make important changes, even without support of some of the largest groups. The more moderate CFDT union isn’t wild about his reforms, but isn’t calling for strikes and another, the “Force Ouvrière” is even more forgiving. Medef, the “Mouvement des Entreprises de France,” is in favor of the transformations claiming that “inertia that has plagued French economy for a number of years now.”
Note: The “Confédération Générale du Travail” is the first of the five major French confederations of trade unions and the largest in terms of votes and second largest in terms of members, about 720,000. The CFDT is the “Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail” is the largest in membership with 875,000 members. The “Force Ouvrière,” also on the left politically, has 300,000 members. Medef has 750,000 small and medium business members.
In addition to September 12th protests, Jean-Luc Mélenchon is planning a mass march on September 23rd. You might remember him as the Socialist candidate who ran against Macron in the presidential election, so you can imagine he’d like to see Macron fail.
Germany reformed their laws in 2004 to 2005, making workers and employers freer to negotiate between them with less interference from the unions, with a set scale for damages to employees who are dismissed wrongfully, reducing red tape for small to medium companies. Macron wants his reforms (or should I say “transformations”) to be more in keeping with these Anglo-Saxon ideas.
This is being touted as his “make or break moment.” If he can do it, then he’ll be way ahead of the other presidents who failed, and perhaps put France on the road to economic recovery. If he can really “transform” France, then he will be free to move on to more of his dreams.
I have a whole list of dreams myself I’d wish he’d tackle. Now, we just have to see if he can hold tight and stand up for his beliefs, without re-election five years from now standing in the way of his good sense!
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
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P.P.S. To our friends in New York: The Emmanuel Fremin Gallery is delighted to present “East of the Sun,” the highly anticipated exhibition from Israeli artist (and friend of Parler Paris) Drew Tal, featuring his new body of works. The show will run from September 21 to November 4, 2017 with an artist reception on Thursday, September 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. See the gallery’s website for more information.