vendredi, avril 07, 2006

Chirac's Speech on the CPE

Last Friday our friend Chirac (did I tell you that we went to the same school, though of course a few decades apart?) made a speech about the CPE (First Employment Contract). I swear I could have written it for him (especially the part about those protesting hindering those who were not from continuing with their lessons, going to work etc), though I would have shortened the tryout period further to maximum 6 months.

Sigh, the young people will not accept it. Haven't started climbing yet and already they fear the fall. Of course they are unhappy that everything is going to fall upon them : paying for their elders' retirement, reimbursing the humongous National Deficit and now having to be the guinea pigs for more flexibility in the labour market.

On the other hand, we have to start somewhere. Can't turn back the clock and definitely cannot continue with things as they are. And though we know that unless the whole labour market becomes more flexible (and hubby was saying that we should also change the pension scheme), nothing much is going to change. But it will be really painful making the older workers risk their jobs since it would be even more difficult for them to find a new one, hence de Villepin's half-hearted attempt to introduce change.

But one of my reasons for supporting the CPE (or at least the idea and not all of its contents) is that if we start with the young, we have a better chance of changing a few mentalities. And what we need is for everyone to stop hiding behind safety nets and to start realising that too much social protection sometimes kills protection and that ultimately somebody has to pay for the deficits, stem the job relocations and encourage job creation etc. One pretty cool slogan on the walls of one of the campuses read for example : ''Vaut mieux le CPE qu'ANPE!'' *

It is a pity that he had been too cowardly and had not tried to discuss the new law, do a bit of marketing, test some waters etc before introducing it in January. He should know that force wouldn't work with the French. Just for that they would go against it. Doomed to failure.

Though come to think of it Martine Aubry's 35-Hour law came into force quite heavy-handedly too a few years ago. And nobody (except the bosses) really complained about it then since people actually were going to get paid the same for working less. Some rationale about it encouraging bosses to hire more help if current staff had to work less. Only they forgot that with the rigid and expensive labour conditions in France, you wouldn't want to risk getting more help that you wouldn't be able to get rid of easily if you needed to.

Many companies actually just made-do with fewer staff (like my Optician, you turned up after 5pm and he was alone holding the fort till the shop closed at 7, the 2 pretty young ladies gone home on their 35 Hours) or make them keep the same hours somehow. My hubby never knew what it was all about. He keeps working more and more for the same pay and with nearly half of his income taxed away, I always tell him that for half of his working day he actually works for free. I've always thought this law stupid and unrealistic. In such bad times, people should be working more to keep their jobs, not less. But well, I'm no Economist.

So I was saying that some mentalities should start changing and that we should try something new. But well, tell that to the French.**

''If we have a cause to protest, however minor, we tear open our shirts, run into the street and shout ‘Shoot me!''' - Plantu.

PS : Caricature done by Gérome Barry.

* ''Better the CPE than the Unemployment Office''

** Most of the young demonstrators were actually the better-off and much more organised and vocal University students in the major cities who were trying to maintain their current social rights, at the expense of the poorer and less educated youths from the suburbs who would probably benefit from more flexible labour laws. May the loudest win.

2 commentaires:

101mynxes a dit…

Hi,
Thanks for posting this. I met up with an ex-classmate who enlightened me on the highly protective labour laws in France (after I grilled him on what's the deal about this CPE strike which I witnessed in Marseille!).

He did mention the 35 hour work week in passing but I had no idea it was the law there!

Beau Lotus a dit…

It is and is not working since unemployment rates are still so high. And difficult to tell the people now that they're going to go back to working 40 hours for the same pay, usually what has been given out could hardly be taken back. Though quite a number of companies have been negotiating the return to 40 hours with employees under the rationale that it's either that or retrenchment or worse, relocation to cheaper countries.

It is difficult to strike a balance between lots of and no social protection (like in S'pore), but it is sure the French economy is in trouble and things cannot continue the way they are.