Saturday, January 12, 2013

The New Social Model

Was it an "historic pact" or mrely an "almost historic pact?" Le Monde's editorial writers were in some doubt this morning. To be sure, the CGT and the FO have both rejected the accord, and the CFDT was joined in acceptance only by the relatively less significant CFTC and CGE-CGC. In short, the agreement merely ratifies the status quo among the social partners: employers want more "flexibility" in hiring and firing, the CFDT, however reluctantly, is willing to give it to them, but much of the labor force remains wary of concessions, no matter how often France's declining competitive position is invoked.

Of all the social partners, it is the employers association (MEDEF) that seems most pleased, along with President Hollande: "Un succès du dialogue social", s'est félicité M. Hollande, qui voit valider sa méthode sociale-démocrate fondée sur le compromis social." But what else would he say? Of course the details will matter as the pact is turned into concrete legislation, and praise for the agreement seems to rest on the hope that it will change the tone of discussion of these details. Le Monde concludes with a remark that has the ring of a warning to Socialist deputies:
M. Hollande s'est déjà engagé à "transcrire fidèlement les dispositions d'ordre législatif prévues dans l'accord". Jean-Marc Ayrault a tenu le même langage. Et Harlem Désir, au nom du Parti socialiste, a apporté son soutien. Mais le plus dur est à venir : obtenir des élus socialistes le même respect de la démocratie sociale.
Hollande had committed himself, hence it is up to the part to support him in the name of "social democracy." This demand for a blank check is rather exorbitant, given that the situation remains more or less as it has stood since 1992. The PS has never been un parti godillot. The fundamental assumption--which may be correct, but then again, it may not--is that France's competitiveness problem can be resolved through concessions on the front of "flexibility." But what if this is wrong? What if France's decline is more a result of bad industrial policy, mistaken strategic decisions on the part of capital, and government failure to channel resources and funds into dynamic growth sectors? The fearful worker clinging to his status quo as insider and rejecting all productivity-enhancing investment is a myth. Unfortunately that myth is reinforced by the comprehensible but short-sighted action of some workers when plants are closed (at Gandrange or Aulnay, for example). Insiders do sometimes try too hard to save themselves at the expense of outsiders. But that is not the whole story, and greater "flexibility" is not the whole solution.

2 comments:

To said...

"What if France's decline is more a result of bad industrial policy, mistaken strategic decisions on the part of capital, and government failure to channel resources and funds into dynamic growth sectors?"

Not to mention the elephant in the room, which always gets conveniently forgotten: being in a currency union with a country that has a mercantilist, wage-dumping policy.

FrédéricLN said...

" In short, the agreement merely ratifies the status quo among the social partners" Yes, indeed! The changes are minimal.

This move by President Hollande is the quite logical consequence of three facts:

1) according to a widespread opinions (including OECD authors, many politicians, business people, trade unions…), "change in the rules of the labor market" would be key to recovery / progress / and so on;

2) none of them really announces which kinds of changes would be needed — or, when you hear of some, you can't think honestly they would solve the unemployment issues in any regard;

3) but all of them think that honest employers and employees would agree on those famous (if unknown) necessary changes.

So, the sound way for the political power is to tell them "I'll be a true democrat: I leave it to you to make it".

As far as I remember, Bayrou had announced in 2006-2007 similar intentions to pave the way to "la démocratie sociale".

And that's fact: Sarkozy did in 2007 exactly the same move, and with the same outcome, and the agreement was announced at quite the same date (11 January) http://www.lejdd.fr/Societe/Emploi/Actualite/Contrat-de-travail-Les-principaux-points-du-projet-d-accord-98605 The only difference was that also FO signed (with CFDT, CFTC and CGC).