At 28, Godefroy Guibert has actually only just started his working life, teaching high school economics to teenagers barely a decade younger than himself. Despite having a long profession ahead of him, the tall, bearded Parisian knows precisely what he will be doing and how much he will be earning 20 years from now not to discuss when he retires sometime in the 2050’s, with a charitable state pension. I have a job for life, he says happily, standing one blustery afternoon in a crowd of protesters, dealt with by a phalanx of riot cops, outside the offices of the French business federation Medef. When you have a job for the state, like a teacher, you cannot be fired.
That is exactly the problem, according to French government officials and companies. Since March, proposed labor reforms focused on loosening the large labyrinth of labor policies included in France’s 3,689-page Work Code have stimulated the most explosive political fight in more than 10 years, with mammoth street demonstrations, strikes and violent clashes with authorities. After weeks of protests and sit-ins, the government finally rammed the expense through parliament without no vote on May 10, over the objections of millions of routine French who have actually long delighted in leak-proof labor protections and to the fury of many legislators within the judgment Socialist Party.
That has tipped the argument into a full-blown labor crisis that now threatens to damage the world s sixth biggest economy.
Since Monday, union activists have actually blockaded some French oil refineries, burning barricades and fighting authorities, and leaving about one-third of French gas stations without fuel. Union leaders have actually called a national strike in numerous markets for Thursday, including at nuclear power plants, which supply many of France s electricity.
The answer, in the meantime, could be yes. That’s because neither side reveals signs of pulling back. Pitted versus each other is a federal government desperate for a much better economy; and countless French workers and youths, who finish from high school or college this month, and who have actually constantly considered granted their right to lavish advantages and iron-clad task security.
Comparable labor laws have been loosened throughout recent years in other big European economies, including Spain and Italy, jump-starting their economies after deep recession. In France, victory has become, for each side, a do-or-die test of survival.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls told a radio program on Tuesday, We are not going to change the costs because then we would not have the ability to reform the country. Similarly, Philippe Martinez, secretary general of the hard-line CGT union that has actually led the strikes, stated on TV on Tuesday, We are figured out to take this to the end, to have the labor law reversed.
That appears not likely or at least, that is what the federal government up until now says. For President Francois Hollande, the stakes in winning might hardly be higher. Possibly rashly, Hollande has stated he will not stand for re-election in next April s vote if he fails to reduce the near-permanent joblessness rate of nearly 11% (and double that for youth), and if he cannot raise economic development from its present near-zero rate. France s public debt is likewise 96% of its GDP Germany’s is closer to 70% and its deficit is about 3.6%. Economic experts mainly blame the weak economy on the restrictive labor legislation, including laws binding companies to pay big taxes for each employer, and which bind them to their staff, no matter the financial conditions. Under present law, it can take years for a company to fire someone, with special labor courts in some cases granting settlements of as much as numerous thousands of euros to one laid-off staff member.
In a mass movement that has significantly overlapped with the union actions, countless young people have occupied Paris large square, the Place de la R publique, and other public areas, in what they call the Nuit Debout (Night, Standing Up). Numerous slept for weeks in the square, in what looked like a kind of hippie encampment, until cops by force broke up their sit-in in mid-April. Since then the organizers have held regular presentations and discussions in the square.
The company has actually tapped a groundswell of frustration for a generation that has actually hit the job market in an age of economic crisis and restricted chances. Those lucky enough to find work are practically all employed on momentary agreements that last just a couple of weeks or months, because businesses are loath to obtain locked into a long-term relationship. It can take five or 10 years before we get a CDI [permanent work contract], says Guibert, the schoolteacher, who is on the Nuit Debout Political Economy Commission, which has held seminars about French economy and law for numerous youth in the square. We do not know how to preserve this system.
The brand-new labor law a simple 588 pages long would enable companies to negotiate their own work conditions with brand-new hires, providing them the capability to cut jobs throughout tough times and to lengthen working hours beyond the 35-hour workweek, which is preserved in French law. The expense of labor is extremely high in France, states financial expert Marc Touati.
It’s exactly those advantages that the French fear losing. Guibert thinks one option is to have each employee work less, motivating companies to hire more people. If everybody worked less so more individuals could work, he states. And you understand in France the efficiency of each employee is extremely, extremely high, so it is really not a problem if individuals work less in France, I think.
Any tweaks to the existing system will include an extended fight, as the current actions show. To union activists, the brand-new labor law spells the unraveling of rights they have defended over generations. Many see the U.S. as an example of exactly what they look for to prevent: a labor system with couple of legal protections and without any nationwide law mandating paid vacation.
By contrast, employed French employees delight in a minimum of five weeks paid vacation under law. Wearing down those benefits would cause a canine consume canine competitors, states Alisdair Gould, the CGT union rep at the high school where he works. The absence of national conventions of pay and conditions will imply your pay, your holiday entitlements, may vary and weaken, Gould informed TIME in an interview. Job insecurity is individually and collectively demoralizing.
To many in France, that is worth fighting a full-scale fight even if it suggests weeks more of turmoil. About 60% of French oppose the more versatile labor laws, according to viewpoint surveys. A survey released late Wednesday revealed that 69% of French individuals would prefer the government to back down, rather than have the country grind to a stop.
Left unsaid, however, is whether Hollande’s new steps would successfully kick-start France’s economy even if he has the ability to push them through. Some fear that even if the government succeeds in carrying out the brand-new laws, the reform may well show insufficient for what France really needs.
He says the months of fight on the streets have left him deeply dispirited, thinking that workers will never agree to the wide-reaching reforms the economy requires, in order to contend internationally. France is not reform able, he states. The only financial culture is class warfare.