Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Baroud d'honneur?

An extraordinary meeting of the council of ministers has been called to decide whether or not to invoke Article 49-3 in order to force passage of the labor code reform known as the El Khomri Law. Prime Minister Valls, who does not want any further compromise on the law, had already called a halt to further votes on the 5,000 proposed amendments.

This impasse has been looming for some time. The proposed reform has become one of those symbols by which, rightly or wrongly, rationally or irrationally, people declare their political identities. The street demonstrations against the reform, coupled with the amorphous but clearly hostile Nuit debout protest, have converged to make this vote a test of the strength, or rather a proof of the weakness, of the Valls government and the Hollande presidency. It is likely to be a baroud d'honneur, because the consequences of forced passage are likely to be intensified protest and legislative paralysis for the remainder of Hollande's term. If not worse ...

And what will the government get from the patronat in return for this reform? Nothing. Yves Gattaz has already said that the law is hopelessly compromised. Once again France demonstrates that it is the "stalemate society," unable to move very far in any direction and content to fiddle while the populace fumes. Eppure se muove ... That is perhaps the most remarkable thing: that for all the moroseness and complaining, France isn't really that badly off, as we are frequently reminded by Paul Krugman and, less authoritatively, by François Hollande.


Greg said...

"And what will the government get from the patronat in return for this reform? Nothing."

Really? Then why is the French government attempting to force the measure through, dear Art, going against the will of the majority of voters that placed them in power?

They are doing so - these mediocre, colorless and uninspired French politics of our time - because they are compelled to do so by the European treaties, and notably by article 121 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) which imposes a common economic policy to all member states.

wazoox said...

As Greg said. Then Juncker said that the treaties are out of democratic reach. Only matters of little to no importance are to be influenced by people's will.Therefore UE is a dictatorship, it's really UESSR.

tomfiorina said...

France isn't in too bad shape--for those on the inside, with protected jobs. For the rest, it's a real bras d'honneur!

Mitch Guthman said...

I understand that Hollande believes that supply creates its own demand but if he’d been paying attention, he’d see that Europe is in a crisis because of lack of demand. Continually finding ways for businesses to pay workers less and less will increase profits but only for a brief moment and then on a diminishing volume of sales; it will do nothing to improve the economic situation in France. The problem isn’t that French workers are grossly overpaid but that there’s no prospect of selling anything because most people are totally skint.

On the purely political side, I don’t understand the politics of this and would be grateful for an explanation. Except for the people who get to pay their workers less, I don't see that the El Khomri Law does very much for Hollande politically and so I'm very surprised that this is the hill he's chosen to die on. As I say, I don’t see any political benefit to Hollande from this, especially from ramming it through by using Art. 49-3. Particularly since I’m now reading that the invocation of Art. 49-3 was, predictably, opposed by about 75% of the population.

But, equally, I don’t understand why the rest of the PS isn’t in a genuine rebellion (as opposed to yet another kabuki revolt). This would seem to be the “moment of destiny” for les frondeurs; posturing and writing tribunes in Le Monde won’t be enough to satisfy the PS voters (not that it matters since they’ll all be trying to vote for Alain Juppé in the first round). What is to be gained by keeping the Hollande government afloat until after the 2017 election? Why don't they put in a motion of censure?

I am really, very seriously confused by every aspect of this insanity.

Alexandra Marshall said...

Mitch I share much of your confusion though I am not entirely against this reform. France needs more flexibility. I'm not in favor at all of capping damages to those found to be unfairly fired -- otherwise what's the point of regulating employer conduct at all? But I am entirely in favor of loosening layoff restrictions and think this is a very important step in the right direction. The French trade unions also played themselves by coming out so strongly against Sunday work, showing them to be out of step with the people they're supposed to be representing, so it makes it easier to take some of their power away, even though this always bodes poorly for workers' rights. But if unions show themselves to be totally inflexible, as the CGT usually does, in today's world where capital is ENTIRELY mobile, they will always eventually lose.

There's so much more work to be done to bring France more in line with a freelance, constantly moving, flexible digital world. One hopes the country's instincts to protect workers would kick in with some kind of new understanding of what it means to be a worker today, even, God forbid!, a self-employed one. But it seems the way of thinking is still stuck in the 1950s.

Of course much of this reform goes about so much the wrong way, and Hollande seems incapable of getting anything meaningful out of the patronat in exchange. With that massive tax break he gave two years ago, how could he not have won the ability to allocate where some of that gift money went? (To R&D, to modernization, to rationalization, to retraining...)

Anyway, I digress. I'd love to know where he got his reputation as a tactician. I only know how he operates based on his behavior as president and there he's proven himself literally every step of the way to have impossibly bad political instincts and no ability to sell his ideas to the people. Even if the current alternative players don't offer a ton of hope, I can't see the back of him soon enough.