Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Increased Uncertainty

Employers (see previous post) want reduced uncertainty. The unions, or at any rate, the CGT seem to want increased uncertainty. CGT head Bernard Thibault, never much given to subtlety, threatened to cause disruptions during the Rugby World Cup if things didn't go his way. But even the CGT concedes that the government is doing more consulting with unions than governments past.

Sarkozy will address the MEDEF Summer University tomorrow and is expected to unveil further economic reforms, including details of the single labor contract. Then the unions will begin to frame their strategies in response, and we will have a better idea of whether the fall will be confrontational or given over to negotiations. The government's strategy will very likely be one of divide-and-conquer, aimed at isolating the CGT as much as possible. And at bottom the CGT's position is weak.

Reduced Uncertainty

Laurence Parisot, the head of the employers' association MEDEF, gives Le Monde an interview today. On the move toward a single employment contract, she says that what employers want is less uncertainty as to the cost of potential layoffs. "We have to explain an apparent paradox," she said. "Employers will hire more if laying off is less complicated." To that end, the MEDEF proposal is to maintain existing job protections but add a new layoff procedure "by mutual consent." Workers who accept separation by this route will be entitled to unemployment insurance. Employers will gain by avoiding conflict and potential hearings of uncertain duration, giving the flexibility they desire.

Rocard's Report Card

Michel Rocard awards Sarkozy a pretty good report card, and the next day he is appointed by Sarko to a commission to consider ways to improve the status of teachers. Just a coincidence, I'm sure. His bottom line:

After the relative lifelessness of President Jacques Chirac’s final years office, dynamism has returned to French foreign policy. That is a welcome development, and not only for France, because Sarkozy’s activism also promises to boost Europe’s political influence around the world.
It's sobering to think that France labored for nearly two decades under a gerontocracy. Certainly Mitterrand's second septennat and both of Chirac's terms were conducted by men not at their peak. Rocard is no doubt right that part of l'effet Sarkozy is simply the shock of discovering a more vigorous leader at the helm. More and more, in fact, Sarkozy strikes me as rather cautious in his policy compared with the boldness of his self-presentation, not to say self-aggrandizement, which is largely a reflection of sheer energy.

Martine Aubry's report card is rather more reserved (thanks to commenter Fr. for the tip--I'd somehow missed this). She's a little unfair, I think, in arraigning Sarko for having missed the looming subprime crisis. Many anticipated it; no one did anything to prevent it; and Sarkozy was hardly in a position to influence the behavior of American mortgage lenders and hedge funds.