Employment law in France is, to an outside observer used to the Anglo-saxon system, all about employee rights. Trade Unions are strong and their socialist leanings mean that acquired employee rights cannot be taken lightly. The desire of the current right-wing government is to make employment law more flexible for employers, allowing them to have recruitment policies which would make their business more profitable at the expense of employee job security. Should it all be about capitalist aims, or rights to employment with job protection and social rights?
The latest change to French law – to bring in a “contrat premiÃ¨re embauche” – will allow employers to have newly recruited young employees sign a contract which can be terminated without reason in the first two years. Whilst this may in reality seem like a step backwards (at least to the French), bear in mind that the current option is often an unpaid internship or a multitude of fixed short term contracts before people actually get a permanent contract. This is due to the fact that sacking someone after a few months of a permanent contract agreement have passed is difficult, unless solid proof of their continual poor performance can be provided.
Current French youth unemployment is at 22.8%, so I find it a bit rich when the argument given by students currently striking and occupying their universities, which led to and intervention by the riot police, is that the new law leads them into further precarity. A move made to encourage right-wing capitalist employers to take on young inexperienced staff is surely to be encouraged, whatever your political leaning. If it causes unemployment to rise, then it should be removed. Until then, why not test it? Because let’s face it, whether you have socialist principles or not, the employers that aren’t taking on new staff on a permanent basis are more likely to be right wing.
Image credit: Olivier Laban-Mattei, AFP