Labor Reform in France: More Freedom for Entrepreneurs
French President Emmanuel Macron has set himself an ambitious goal.
The French government promulgated a plan for a large-scale reform of labor legislation. Its main goal is to "free up the energy of the workforce", or, more simply, to make the process of hiring and firing workers more painless and transparent.
Unemployment in France reaches 9.5%, which is twice that of other large European countries. President Emmanuel Macron promises to reduce this figure to 7% by 2022 but insists that without the reform of the labor code it is impossible to do so.
According to analysts, he is quite capable of this, even though his popularity has been shaken for months after the presidential elections, and the previous (socialist) government of Francois Hollande has “broken its teeth” on attempts to rewrite the labor code, and on a much more modest scale.
In the current French code of labor laws, more than three thousand pages. Macron decided to reduce it to a minimum, and significantly change the rules of the game between trade unions and entrepreneurs. They were developed during the first post-war decades when trade unions had very strong political and economic positions. Today the situation is different, and, in fact, this is a revenge of the business community, it is his demands that formed the basis of this initiative.
The main thing that provides the reform is the transfer of the center of gravity from the definition of the conditions of labor contracts from the sectoral, and even more so the national level to the level of enterprises. This is the minimum wage, and working conditions, and the length of the working day, and safety at work, and the like, and most importantly - job security in case of dismissal for economic reasons.
Elected representatives of trade unions at enterprises had very serious opportunities to force the employer, if not refuse to be dismissed, then at least pay a very substantial compensation to the dismissed person - there are financial payments and requalification, and many other things.
The current Labor Code of France is a very voluminous book
The whole complex of these trade union rights is now transferred from the sectoral level to the level of the enterprise, where the host has, of course, more room for pressure, especially in the face of considerable unemployment. And the party of trade unions in conflict situations is significantly weakened: for example, earlier there were at least four different committees - representatives of the staff as a whole, the trade union committee, the inspection of working conditions, the conflict commission.
Previously, at enterprises, they all existed separately. Now all this merges together, one body is created, where all trade unions are present (and they are split), and the owner of the enterprise has business with him. It is clear that this worsens the negotiating position of the trade unions.
A compromise is outlined on the issue of taking into account working conditions - whether they are heavy or not in each specific case. Earlier in this issue, the decisive word belonged to the trade unions, now it is divided between the directorate and the interested trade-union authorities.
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Previously, there were world judges on labor disputes who together with the representative of the enterprise and the State Labor Inspector of the Ministry of Social Affairs were solving the issues of dismissal - whether there is a wine of the worker or the entrepreneur has economic reasons. They together determined the amount of compensation - how many months the dismissed will continue to pay salaries, issues of further employment, and so on. Now all this is abolished.
This is not all the provisions of the new project, but the general trend is this: to reduce the social dialogue between wage labor and business to enterprises, dramatically reduce the representation of trade unions - they had several bodies in the enterprise, now there will be one common, and since they are split, they will find it quite difficult to come to a common denominator. It is an essential change.
It seems that trade unions everywhere are largely weakened. A characteristic feature of France, for example, is that people there are not ready to tolerate wordlessly whatever. And as soon as the government tries to advance on the gains of the working people, they are immediately ready to defend the rights, both their own and of other workers. In France, there is an understanding that what the working people have achieved is forever, and no one should encroach on it.
French trade unions do not have the habit of giving up without a fight
Macron, on one hand, was originally close to the socialists, but in his heart he was, rather, a liberal, but not a political one, but an economic one. And it seems to me very difficult to match these two components of my worldview.
Opinion polls show that far more than half of the French agree that labor laws need serious modernization. Still, living in the 21st century on the basis of the labor regulations of almost victorious socialism is an anachronism.