Employment law in France: The oncoming storm

Article published on May 27, 2016
Article published on May 27, 2016

The protest against France's planned labour market reform continue to spread. Tens of thousands demonstrated on Thursday, while rail, airport and nuclear power plant strikes have paralysed the country. Commentators in neighbouring countries praise both the rebellious population and the unrelenting president.

This reform must only be the start - The Times, Great Britain

France urgently needs the planned reforms, as well as other economic and labour reforms, warns The Times: "The president, and the government of Manuel Valls, should stand firm in overhauling the regulations that hold back business. ... It needs not only to push through its present reforms but also to go further: a phasing out of centralised labour agreements, a tightening of the rules on unemployment benefits. Trimming France’s huge civil service and raising the retirement age would help rein in the public deficit. The president is plainly unwilling to grasp this nettle for fear that it will handicap his re-election campaign next year. ... The president has taken a hapless and hazardous course." (26/05/2016)

Everyone loses out in this power struggle - Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland

The growing mass protests in France against labour reforms that include the extension of the 35-hour week are bad news for everyone, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung observes: "So far the French have failed to prove that their 35-hour working week is the right model. They're not doing particularly well in the competition with other comparable economies in Europe. Unemployment has by no means improved and considerable segments of the economy are trapped in poverty. The whole attitude that you should earn as much as others even though you work less seems somewhat frivolous. If the contentious labour reform does come into effect it will hardly have the desired result of boosting the economy; it's too cautious for that. The costs of the blockades, however, will definitely have a negative impact on the economy. Everyone will lose out. The power struggle in France is pointless." (26/05/2016)

Being stubborn won't help protesters' cause - Die Tageszeitung taz, Germany

Germany's left is watching the protesters in France with envy - and not without reason, the left-wing daily taz comments: "Those French are plucky, they think. If we Germans were even half as radical as the French, we - and Europe - would fare better. There is some truth in this notion, but it is only half the truth. … In Germany too, there were protests against the Hartz IV reform [of German unemployment benefits], but they were nowhere near as radical as those in France. The unions baulked at that. … But at least later on they managed to reform the reform a little - and push through the minimum wage. The minimum wage has for a long time been as much a part of France as radical social protest. Nonetheless, the average worker on the Seine is doing no better than his counterpart on the Rhine - quite the contrary in fact. So clinging stubbornly to the status quo cannot be the cleverest solution." (26/05/2016)

Hollande's firm stance should be copied - ABC, Spain

Impressed by the firm stance of the French Socialists, the conservative daily ABC hopes by contrast that their Spanish colleagues in the PSOE party will show similar resolve on reforms: "PSOE should follow Hollande's example and turn its back on the radical left to embrace the interests of the state with proposals that benefit the country as a whole. In recent days France has been rocked by violent protests arising from the unions' all-out rejection of the Hollande government's labour reforms. However, rather than giving in to the protesters' blackmail tactics the French Socialists are sticking to their plans to make the ailing job market more flexible - a valuable lesson which their Spanish colleagues should take to heart." (26/05/2016)

---

30 Countries, 300 Media Outlets, 1 Press Review. The euro|topics press review presents the issues affecting Europe and reflects the continent's diverse opinions, ideas and moods.