"Prime Minister Fillon's announcement this morning that unions had until the end of the summer to make propositions on the reform of the right to strike in public services shows that the room for social dialogue is pretty small. The fact that the first negative reaction came from the CFDT, a union that has become quite open to dialogue with employers in the last twenty years, shows that unions will categorically refuse to legitimate Sarkozy's strategy. It remains to be seen whether the public will believe Sarkozy when he will blame it on unions and corporatism."I've responded to some previous comments in the comments section, but from time to time I'll bring a particularly interesting comment up into the main section in order to make the dialog more readily accessible.
Marcos puts his finger on what will surely be a key area of conflict, but I would be a little more cautious in interpreting these early skirmishes (more details here). The unions will come to an agreement on the limitation of the right to strike in public services (or, to put it from the government's point of view, the assurance of minimum service during strikes), because they know that complete shutdowns create ill will in the public at large. But they'll want a quid pro quo, and making a fuss about Fillon's dates is a way of putting the government on notice that they're not going to roll over.
The real conflict will come over the "single labor contract." Since this has been in the background for quite some time, it hardly seems unreasonable of Fillon to propose a discussion of the issue in the fall and to suggest the Scandinavian "flexicurity" regime as a basis for negotiation. The current multiplicity of labor contracts--the CDI, or indeterminate duration contract, the CDD, or determinate duration contract, and all the rest--merely institutionalizes the dual labor market in France. The furor over Villepin's proposed CPE (first hire contract) served only to hide the ways in which the inferior contract, the CDD, is used as a signal for legal discrimination in non-work-related areas: with a CDD it's harder to rent an apartment, obtain a loan, buy on time, etc. The dual labor market thus extends to a dual social market. A single contract might help to remedy this and to narrow the gap between insiders and outsiders. The mission of the unions is to secure compensation for concessions on eased dismissal conditions. This compensation might come in the form of increased government investment in job retraining, continuing education, and job search assistance. From this distance it's difficult to see where the real maneuvering is going on, but I'm quite sure it isn't that the unions are miffed, as they pretend to be, that Fillon set his deadlines before their scheduled meeting with Sarkozy next week.