This is an important story from EuActiv, reporting French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, annoucing that the French government will propose legislation to simplify over-complex labour laws and promote more collective bargaining accords at a sectoral level.
I know France very well and understand the French people – I also seriously respect their desire to protect the French way of life. I have discussed the French labor system with French friends and am convinced that these proposed reforms will lead to massive strikes in France.
France’s working population is polarized – it’s a bit like Spain before her reforms. On the one hand is the group protected by traditional employment contracts, with rich benefits, early retirement and a 35 hour week – in particular, there is the public sector, where there is no competition like in the UK where the public sector has been mauled by austerity. On the other hand, are the young and those out of work who struggle to get a job – they’re often exposed to what an unemployed French friend described as a ‘scam’, whereby the likes of fast-food outlets take advantage of casual employment contracts.
I really admire France’s desire to respect the French way of life, like not working Sunday and keeping it free for church, the family or sports. On the other hand, the French employment system protects the privileged and is unfair to the young and the disadvantaged.
My personal conclusion is that France’s unions will block the reforms, putting France into confrontation with the rest of Europe, especially Germany.