Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Short Hot Spring?

Is this going to be CPE redux? We've seen this scenario before: lycée students get a bee in their bonnet about a proposed reform in part intended, say its proponents, to break down the insider-outsider job market in France and open up more positions to young people, currently locked out by the high cost and high risk of new hires in an uncertain economic climate. The young people don't believe the reformers' promises, however, and are instead persuaded by the rhetoric of the organizations dedicated to protecting the position of the insiders, namely, the unions.

Of course, that way of presenting the conflict is quite slanted and unfair. One could look instead at the supposedly neutral technical analysis of the labor market by leading economists who favor the El Khomri plan. Unfortunately, the economists pay little attention to some of the more unfortunate details of the proposal, which makes many concessions to employers concerned with obtaining more "flexibility" in hiring and scheduling and offers short shrift to workers more concerned with the "security" side of the famous "flexicurity" nostrum for solving persistent unemployment problems.

There is a serious debate to be had here, but once the students take to the streets, as they are doing today along with union marchers, the issues have a way of getting lost in the fog of fumigènes. I would forecast a long hot summer, except that the track record of the Hollande government has been to cave quickly when opposition turns militant (remember the withdrawal of the ecotax after the attacks on les portiques électroniques by the bonnets rouges). If the protests really get going, it may instead be a short hot spring. It took a month of demonstrations to scuttle retirement reform in 1995, two weeks to scuttle the CPE. Will the Loi El Khomri last even a week?


Anonymous said...

From PS insiders, this is a power play. That is, some people in the government never meant for the law to go through, but intended to use the student base to agitate and make the ("social liberal") government appear "à l'écoute des jeunes/du peuple" by conceding the points, after discussion... that they'd always wanted to concede in the first place. And, in the process, cut Valls' ego down to size a bit, and reduce the influence of those who have no problem with the law as it stands.

Right now, the students are super flexible. They work, on average for two years after their Master's degree, for about 400 euros a month, then they're hired and let go at will...

An example: right now, employees have the right to 11 hours of uninterrupted rest time. For instance, if they stop work at 11pm, they can't be made to return to work till 10 am the next day. If they stop work at 6pm, they can't start the early shift at 5 (unless they're on shift work and paid for it). The new law keeps the 11 hours of rest time per work day.... but.... allows them to be "fractioned". Meaning a cashier with a 25h contract (most common situation) could be made to come at 8 am and stay till 10pm, with only 4 hours of work, paid 4 hours, each day. Or someone could be made to work 9-5, then 10pm-3am, then have to be back at 9 am because there were 11 hours total between 5 and 10pm, then between 3 am and 9 am.

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Michael Lejman said...

Has there been a more predictable headline than "Hollande blinks on labor bill after protests"?