Thursday, March 23, 2006

France, CPE: US and UK views

A good piece on the demos in France by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickel and Dimed":

March 20, 2006
French Workers Refuse to be “Kleenex”

"Was it only three years ago that some of our puffed up patriots were denouncing the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” too fattened on Camembert to stub out their Galois’s and get down with the war on Iraq? Well, take another look at the folks who invented the word liberté. For more than a week now they’ve been marching, rioting, and burning up cars to preserve a right Americans can only dream of: the right not to be fired at an employer’s whim.

Maybe the rioters sense a logical fallacy in the government’s proposal: Fire more people so more people can be hired? What corporations call “flexibility” – the right to dispose of workers at will – is what workers experience as disposability, not to mention insecurity and poverty. The French students who are tossing Molotov cocktails don’t want to become what they call “a Kleenex generation” – used and tossed away when the employer decides he needs a fresh one.

You may recognize in the French government’s reasoning the same arguments Americans hear whenever we raise a timid plea for a higher minimum wage or a halt to the steady erosion of pensions and health benefits: What? – scream the economists who flack for the employing class – if you do anything, anything at all, to offend or discomfit the employers they will respond by churlishly failing to employ you! Unemployment will rise, and you – lacking of course the health care and other benefits provided by the French welfare state – will quickly spiral down into starvation..."

And this from a Brit in France:

"Under this law, anybody can employ anybody else, for any reason, and up until the 2 year anniversary can fire him as well, for any (or no) reason! There are many laws which protect employees, but the vast majority will be put aside, as "not applicable" in view of the new law. Wonderful for employers, who can (and will) propose a hiring and firing every 2 years on a regular basis.

This means that wage increases (on the basis of seniority) will not exist, since seniority is not considered under the new law. The maximum time anyone can be "in seniority" is 2 years! Further educational/promotional course within the Company will be none-existant, since the employee is only employable for 2 years! Any wage increase demand can (and probably will) be terminated by a termination of the contract! What politicians think to be "cunning" is also the fact that certain periods of employment, in certain types of employment contracts do not count towards the increase or indeed payment of any unemployment benefit! Nor do they count for holiday payments, nor for bonuses such as Christmas/holiday payments etc. The deductions made forcibly for pensions and health insurances are accepted by Government as being in force, but don't try being ill for a long time on your 2 year contract, 'cos you'll be fired, and then your pension and sickness payments will take a dive!

Basically it is highly placed politicians saying that they like the idea of all this, it saves money, saves time, and should produce more jobs. They are saying, simply, that they don't know anything at all about their citizens..."


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