Monday, May 28, 2007

Minimum service

Francisco asks for links regarding the attitudes of the unions after their meeting with Sarkozy. Here's one.

A more recent article suggests new rumblings on minimum service from the CGT Railway Workers Union, however. The head of that group sees an attack on the right to strike. It may be that there is internal disagreement within the CGT leadership about how best to confront the government on the range of issues currently up for negotiation. (Some readers undoubtedly know more than I do about the internal politics of the unions.) Francisco, you mention the popularity of "two-stage games" among your fellow graduate students. Far be it from me to denigrate rigorous models in political science, but let me suggest that the game you're witnessing here has far more than two stages and who knows how many dimensions.

11 comments:

Quico said...
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Quico said...
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Quico said...

Stages and dimension? Many, many I'm sure. Too many, in fact. Hence the need to simplify. Resist it and you wind up caught up in an absurdity...

Anonymous said...

Borgesian absurdity? No, as you take account of more dimensions, you cease being a political scientist and mature into a historian.

Anonymous said...

Returning to the Sarkozy/unions question, I agree with AG that Sarkozy is not necessarily looking for a battle with the unions that would provide him with more tough guy footage. But might not part of the desire to proceed smoothly is that Sarkozy fears that if he were to provoke a Juppe style confrontation he would by no means win. He might, but he might not. There is the danger I think of over-exaggerating Sarkozy's strength. Sarkozy's strength is as much a reflection of the unions' weakness than it is about Sarkozy.

Unknown said...

Yes, I agree with cjb.

Quico said...

I don't really understand that, though. Surely a confrontation is inevitable, isn't it? I mean, protecting the privileges of indefinite-contract employees is what French unions are for, isn't it? (That's the way it's usually portrayed, anyway, maybe I'm wrong.)

Can the unions really retain their members' allegiance if they cut a deal that seriously undermines those privileges? And can a serious overhaul of the dual labor market FAIL to seriously undermine them?

It seems pretty clear to me that there are irreconcilable differences here. Or, well, if a serious confrontation on the streets is avoidable then everything I thought I knew about French politics is wrong.

Unknown said...

Francisco,
I'd make two points in reply to you. First, the unions are not as monolithic as you seem to think, and second, they are not as powerful. In the controversy over the CPE, for example, the CFDT showed much more flexibility than the CGT and in my estimation might have come to an agreement with Villepin if events in the streets hadn't intervened. That's an important reason why cjb is right to underscore Sarkozy's interest in avoiding trouble, which tends to harden positions.

I would also question your point that what the unions are all about is protecting the indefinite duration contract. It is not as difficult to trim workers in France as it is often made out to be. Large firms especially have the resources to deal with the necessarily formalities. The unions know that the ability to protect jobs through contract limitations is weak and that global economic forces can overwhelm those protections. There is thus a calculation to be made on tradeoffs: how much are concessions on contract terms worth to firms, and what compensations can be extracted in turn.

I don't think that positions on this issue are as set in stone as you imply. Furthermore, the CPE demonstrations were led by students, not unions.

Quico said...

I understand. Well, more than I did before, anyway.

Probably I'm just a victim of lazy English language journos who so readily fall into a characterization of France as essentially ungovernable, and portray the street as the ultimate arbiter of everything. It's really striking how prevalent that meme is, actually, and I guess it rubs off.

Anyway, I'm not really sure who your blog's intended audience is - though my first impression was that you were writing very much for people like me: interested, curious, but frustrated by the superficiality of what we see in the English language press.

Personally, I speak French but can only read it with some effort, so most of what I know comes from watching TV5 and clicking on anything about France I see in the New York Times, the Economist and the New Republic (which is where I got the link.)

Probably I should stop pestering you and just read what you have to write for a while, though...

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I would add on the union discussion that what is interesting this time round is whether or not Sarkozy will be able to exploit a weakness which French unions have been lugging around for a long time. France is I think *the* least unionized workforce in Europe, or at least it's way down there on the list. So its unions have had disproportionate amounts of power for some time, which I'm guessing says more about the ways in which reform is conducted (dialogue social, obligatory consulation of unions) and the fact that France's 'neo-liberal turn' was undertaken under a socialist president, in a way that never flushed out many of the mediating forms in French society that reflected the powers of labour in the past. The weakness of governments - from Juppe to Villepin - have often been misread as the strength of unions, but in many ways the unions have been living off borrowed time. Perhaps Sarkozy has the dynamism and political force - based on his popular mandate and the degree of malaise in France - to marginalize the unions. I think that's a difficult one to call, but my feeling is that he doesn't really.

Unknown said...

cjb makes an excellent point. The French unions are weak and depend for influence on their institutionalized role as one of the "social partners," who jointly with employer groups manage many aspects of the French retirement system and other benefits. Sarkozy will try not to crush them but to co-opt them still further.