Monday, March 14, 2016

Compromise? Comme d'hab'

Manuel Valls was on TV tonight defending the deal he'd struck with ... whom, exactly? Apparently the CFDT has accepted the government's modifications of the proposed labor code revision. The details are not important to understand at the moment, since they may (or may not) be subject to further modification. The crucial fact is the impression of movement. I say impression, because there may not have been any real movement. The apparent concessions are the kinds of things good bargainers on both sides would have anticipated as useful tokens: signs of flexibility where necessary, but also signs of commitment to principle when the case needs to be made in other quarters.

Of course, key actors remain unconvinced, or give the appearance of remaining unconvinced. The CGT and FO say no as adamantly as ever. The student organization UNEF says Hell, no, through its spokesperson, the unfortunately named William Martinet. Even the Medef is making unhappy noises through Pierre Gattaz--but it would hardly help the government's cause if the bosses said they were delighted.

When asked if further modifications were possible, Valls hedged. Dialogue would continue, he said, but so would reform. So who knows where things stand? My guess is that this will not be a repeat of 1995 or 2006. The students will march again, the CGT and FO will make a last stand, a vote will be taken without invoking 49-3, and the government will whip just enough votes to its side to put the thing across the finish line.

And then nothing will happen. Hollande's popularity will remain in the pits; Valls will sink a bit lower in the polls; Macron, who seems never to be blamed for anything, will rise a little higher, because he is le jeune espoir du moment; and Myriam El Khomri will be forgotten, having served her purpose as fusible for a controversial reform. Employment will not increase significantly. And all attention will turn to the presidential primaries, as the capstone reform of the Hollande regime fades into oblivion along with the reforms of the Sarkozy era.

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