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France on Strike

by John Redmond Mon May 30th, 2016 at 10:06:47 AM EST

For much of the past month, large portions of the French economy have been hit by strike action, effecting in particular the transport and energy sectors, in response to the Valls government's proposal to overhaul French employment law. Public transport has been hit by rolling strikes both nationally, via work stoppages at the national rail company SNCF, as well as locally via commuter rail grids such as Paris' RATP. Similarly, petrol refineries have also been hit, with up to six (out of eight nationally) refineries either offline or at below output capacity at various points last week, with between a third and 40% of petrol stations running out of petrol to sell, causing long lines at the pump and a fair bit of consumer stress as regards future supplies.

Even France's vast nuclear industry, which provided 75% of the country's electricity needs, has been hit by strikes, though production is not (yet) reported to be impacted. And, similarly, maritime shipping has also been struck, with the ports of Le Havre, Marseille, Dunkerque, Saint Nazaire, Bordeaux and Rouen all either brought to a standstill or severely hampered from an operational standpoint. The strike actions have been accompanied by regular, numerous street protests, with heavy student participation, with a good number of street actions turning violent. Indeed, even a young American has been recently arrested for participating in a particularly violent act on the margins of a recent street protest, while the Police unions have equally taken to the streets to protest both being undermanned as well as the nature of the instructions they have received from the Ministry of the Interior as regards management of the protests they are working.

The strikes show no signs of letting up, with an outlook for the month of June, during which the European Cup football tournament is scheduled to be played in France, being at best similar to the month of May.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

As most casual observers know, France is a country which is no stranger to industrial action. While the street protests and strikes of May 1968 remain in popular memory as a defining moment in recent French history,  quite a number of subsequent strikes and protests have ensued since that famous month, when workers and students combined to bring France to a standstill for a month, ultimately driving Charles de Gaulle from the Elysées Palace, designated residence of French Heads of State since the reign of Louis-Napoléon III.

The French press points to three recent periods of "social movements" in comparison to the present: the Fillon government's modifications, in 2010, to France's public retirement system, increasing the age of retirement by two years, the Villepin government's aborted proposal to limit work-law protections for youths in 2006, and finally, the Juppé government's partially aborted attempts to align public sector working conditions with those of private sector employees in 1995.

In the first case, the comparison can be seen to be limited to the tenuous situation at petrol fueling stations, as in 2010, the refineries were equally struck, though ultimately the proposed law went through. In 2010, the strike action was arguably not as well accompanied, either in numbers or in duration, by street protests and accompanying industrial action.

In the second case, the comparison is more clear, given both the relatively sustained participation in both protest movements of students, and the nature of the parliamentary procedure employed by Villepin in 2006 to legislate the proposal (the so-called "49-3" procedure, whereby a government can bypass a floor vote, more on this later).

Finally, the protests of 1995 are largely considered (for now) to have been of a greater magnitude than the present actions, the point of comparison being usually to discuss the economic impact of the present troubles. The massive public sector protests against the Juppé programme in 1995 are by and large estimated to have lowered economic output in France by between 0.3% and 0.4% of GDP in Q4 of that year.  In contrast, current estimates would put the economic impact to date on the French economy at perhaps 0.1%, though this estimate is to be treated with caution given the current industrial action is not yet complete and given the source (Le Monde) is generally sympathetic to the Holland administration and the Valls government who are behind the present measures, and therefore perhaps prone to soft-pedal regarding the impact of their actions.

Predictably, the Government-run press have, like Le Monde, downplayed negative impacts to date on the economy, all the while insisting, as the President does here, on the risks that further action might have on the performance of the French economy which, posted a respectable 0.6% (quarter over quarter) level of GDP growth, seemingly confirming recent good news on the employment front, with two consecutive months of drops in the level of workers on the dole. Could President Hollande and the Parti Socialiste finally being turning around its electoral prospects in view of next year's Presidential and Parlaimentary elections?

How did we get here?

General de Gaulle once famously remarked on the impossibility of governing a country with so many hundreds of cheese varieties, as he himself came to learn in 1968. France is no stranger to civil unrest, the history of the Republic itself borne of such upheaval. While today's disruptions are rather like small blips on the screen of the "Republic" in the grand scheme of things, it does take a bit of doing in order to get the head of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), Philippe Martinez, to edge the country towards general strikes not seen since 1995. What was the casus belli ? The proximate cause is the proposal to amend French labor law, and most especially by the so-called "inversion of norms" with regards to inter-sectoral negotiation of labor contracts, referred to in the local press and by Valls himself as Article II. For all of the talk of limiting workers' rights to redress in the case of wrongful dismissal, extending work hours, and giving employers flexibility in the payment of overtime, all of which have been part of the Valls government's proposals, the crux of the conflict pitting France's most powerful union against its putatively left-wing government is this "inversion of norms". What is this "inversion," and why is it important?  

One misunderstood aspect in the anglo-saxon press of France's workforce is just how low France's level of unionisation is.
The fact is, at 11% of employees, unionization levels in France are under half the EU average of 23%, and those of the other key economies Germany (18%), the UK (26%), Italy (21%) and Spain (17%), despite the anglo-saxon conventional wisdom that French governments dance to the Union's piper. Notably, though, French employees can still vote in their company's union elections, and have a participation rate in those elections of roughly 50%, significantly higher than in, say, EU elections, or in various by- and local elections as well.

The reason why French union participation rates can be so low is precisely because of such labour protections as the "inversion des norms," a key part of the French labor code which requires that all worker contracts within a given sector obey a certain set of minima. These sector-wide minima are set by contract negotiations take place between representatives of the unions and of the employers, with given employee's representation assumed by union leadership irrespective of union membership, in much the same way management representation is assumed by employer representatives irrespective of management shareholding. The resulting sector-wide contract is known as a "Convention Collective," or Collective Contract. Today, any company-specific contract cannot make an employee worse off than they would be under the sector-wide contract already in place. This is referred to as the hierarchy of norms, with the sector norms establish by industry-wide negotiation being considered superior, hierarchically, to those of the individual employers within the industry.  

What the Valls government intends, via Article II of the current proposal, is to abolish this hierarchy and permit individual employers within an economic sector to negotiate company-wide contracts which are beneath the minima established by the sector-wide contract.  This both undermines the importance of sector-wide negotiations, source of current union power, as well as, say detractors, promoting a "race to the bottom" in labour rights among companies within a sector.

The critical point here is that Article II can be seen as an attack on the negotiating position of unions in general in France, which fundamentally explains the fierce opposition we are seeing to it on the part of many of the unions. That the CGT is spearheading the opposition can also be seen as an attempt to position itself politically, with respect to union representation: once the overwhelming leader in the French labour movement, the CGT has been recently hobbled by accusations of corruption on the part of Martinez' predecessor, Thierry Le Paon, and is in need of a credible uniting theme for ongoing union representation elections. Similarly, the CFDT union (positioned centre-left rather like the PS), poised to assume the leadership position should CGT falter, is equally staking a position, in the CFDT's case one of being open to government proposals, including Article II.

49-3, or Democracy in Action

Further inflaming an already contentious debate, the Valls government, riven by internal divisions, and weakened by the loss of nearly every by-election held since 2012, could not count on passing its new Labour Law (or, "Loi el Khomri" named after the Labour Minister) via a simple floor vote. The reason is simple, the centre-right opposition as well as the Left Front were opposed, as was a sizable minority of Parti Socialiste parlaimentarians (the so-called "frondeurs").

Instead of risking an embarrassing defeat in the National Assembly, the Valls government instead invoked an article of France's constitution, article 49 clause 3 (or 49-3) whereby a government can push through a law via decree, subject to a confidence vote ("motion de censure"). Essentially, a weak government can push through laws in France without voting them; instead, it dares the opposition, including those within its own party, to provoke the fall of the government in the event of opposition to the given law. This is referred to as "engaging the responsibility of the government," or in other words, inciting those in opposition to assume ultimate responsibility for the laws failure by provoking the failure of the government itself.

As might be expected, in the face of overwhelming unpopularity of the Part Socialiste, the present government and President Hollande, the "frondeur" section of the Parti Socialiste, fearful for their jobs for the next twelve months, abstained rather than voting the centre-right motion of no confidence, thereby permitting the changes in the new Labour Law to be adopted, much as they had done not a year ago during the adoption of an Economic "Reform" bill, the "loi Macron".

Article 49-3 has subsequently been derided as anti-democratic, as an abuse of presidential right, and as clearly going against popular sentiment, which is currently running at roughly 70% against the law in public polling. All of which are true in varying measures, though the fact is the article has been in place, and often used, since the institution by General de Gaulle (and voted by referendum) of the 5th Republic itself. Indeed, Socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard used it assiduously, though Nicolas Sarkozy never had to. Nonetheless, the fact that the present government, weak and unpopular, had to resort to it at this time has most certainly inflamed sentiment against the law.

Where are we heading?

Life has been undeniably uncomfortable for the average French consumer and taxi driver waiting in line for petrol. The same can be said for commuters arriving late to work in commuter train cars packed even more than usual by the cancellation of struck trains. But so far, the economic impact has been reported to be minimal. Denis Ferrand of the economic consultancy Coe-Rexecode, and widely cited, estimates the impact to date at 0.1 points of GDP. And while the phrase so far may give some understandable pause, evidence to date shows some level of give on both sides - heavy hitters in the PS, notably Finance Minister Michel Sapin have indicated some flexibility regarding Article II, while there have been some reports of softening support for strike action among the rank-and-file.

Additionally, in previous cases of significant work stoppage (both in 1968 and in 1995), the economic impact of the strike was more than made up for in subsequent quarters; for instance, in Q2 1968, when France contracted by 5%, the following quarter saw a rebound to 7.5% economic growth. So, the short term economic impact of the current events do not give cause for worry.

On the other hand, the long term impact of limiting labour rights, in an environment of stagnant demand and consumer purchasing power, may be somewhat less benign, with continued softness in consumer demand, currently a source of some optimism in otherwise grey French economic skies, likely to continue.

As for the political fall-out, the recourse to article 49-3 to pass an unpopular law simply renders the current government even more unpopular, as evidenced by continuing polling, and paving the way for a centre-right victory in 2017 elections and the prospect of further legislation. Indeed, France's PS has learned nothing from Spain's PSOE, which also passed unpopular, centre-right tinted legislation at the start of the Eurozone economic crisis, in 2010 and was summarily thrown out by voters the following year. A weakened government will remain weak - and it will be in no position to make a case for re-election in a year's time. Meanwhile, consumer demand cannot help but be undermined in the short term, even as it seems to be trending in the right direction today, a potential downturn which can only further cloud the PS electoral prospects next Spring.

Does PS lack any will to win the next election or what is going on?

The polling on Wikipedia has Hollande in third place (barely) and the only candidate who would lose to Le Pen if he got to second round. And now they want to gut collective bargaining and ram it through with presidential decree?!

Speaking of the next election, is the discussion on the left to hold a left primary gaining any steam?

by fjallstrom on Mon May 30th, 2016 at 01:42:35 PM EST
The PES is on a suicide mission across Europe.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 30th, 2016 at 01:49:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And in this case it seems to be trying to divide workers by targeting the most vulnerable - those not in a position to negotiate even minimal conditions for themselves and who are thus reliant on "inversion des norms" to set a floor.  Is it because they have been totally captured by neo-liberal ideology, have come to represent only the oldest and most secure sectors of the workforce who won't be effected so much by this, or have simply sold out?  Surely they cannot believe this is a winning electoral strategy?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 30th, 2016 at 02:16:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My guess is that the French Socialist Party, at least, is doomed by the level and the type of education its leaders received. Hollande attended the elite schools of France and was immediately on a path to government service. Unfortunately, he appears to have absorbed a French version of a Neo-Classical Economics along the way and never had the opportunity to consider the possibilities that such a training excluded - pretty much the same problem most US politicians have. But, because he did study at the elite institutions and did well, he resists considering the possibility that he was mis-educated in this area.

The result is that he cannot understand the economic problems France is facing due to being in the Euro-zone and having the policy of the ECB largely dictated by Germany. This is doubly unfortunate, as France is the one country that could force Germany to change course. And, unfortuantely, his views on economics are widely shared amongst French elites.

So he is just doing what he thinks is right and bravely soldiering on despite the plummeting popularity of his government - marching himself, his party and his country off a cliff and into disaster. It has the elements of classical tragedy.  

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere." (But it helps!)

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 30th, 2016 at 09:25:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What France needs, and quickly, is an alternative to its current socialist - in name only- party. Even if the party gets new leadership immediately it may be too damaged from Holande to win another election any time soon.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere." (But it helps!)
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 30th, 2016 at 09:30:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and this is perhaps for historical reasons, but also in my view due to errors on the part of the leader of the left alternative, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, during the 2012, the alternative to the PS is the National Front.

In terms of voter sentiment, the National Front is increasingly the party of the working class and of the unemployed.

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 06:55:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - France on Strike
also in my view due to errors on the part of the leader of the left alternative, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, during the 2012

Could you elaborate what those mistakes was?

by fjallstrom on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 09:14:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mélenchon went out of his way, in 2012, to demonise Marine Le Pen and the Front National. I think the calculation was that doing so would mobilise his voter base.

The problem is that the target audience for the Front de Gauche is largely the same as the Front National, in much the same way that Bernie Sanders appeals to many of the same votes that Donald Trump appeals to.

He was polling well, in the high to mid- teens, and then came the barrage of attacks on Marine Le Pen, which had the unfortunate effect of insulting a good number of his own potential voters.

We see similar dynamics elsewhere.

He finished at 11%.

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 11:04:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that Sanders or Clinton shouldn't attack Trump if they want to appeal to at least part of his voting base???

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 03:00:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or that Clinton shouldn't attack Sanders for the same reason.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 03:02:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this depends on the nature of the attack. And you need to know who are your potential supporters and what will offend them.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere." (But it helps!)
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 03:41:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
care just needs to be taken to do so in a way which doesn't insult certain sections of the population.

Mélenchon was actively trying to beat Marine Le Pen into fourth place, he wanted to beat her, not win enough votes to make it to the second round. And, he attacked her, for nativism and for not being credible on jobs and on the economic front. He was really going after her, personally, at the end.

And I think if a voter has already given thought and consideration to supporting a candidate, only to hear how ridiculous that candidate is from another candidate who is also aiming to get your vote, you are not necessarily doing yourself any favors.

But Trump is a completely different beast from the National Front. A bald-faced demogogue, and proud of it and his ability to connect with the most nativist portions of the electorate. This case is far harder to make for Marine Le Pen, whose growing support is not coming from the "dead-end" demographic as in the US, but rather, the youth vote, where she is doing really very well.

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2016 at 04:31:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of Trump's shtick is to be abusive and insulting towards anyone he doesn't like at a given point in time. This is part of his appeal to his supporters, but also makes him fair game for being made fun of in return. Not being taken seriously is probably what gets under his skin the most.

However those attacking or satirising him should take care to drive a wedge between him and his supporters.  Appearing to attack his supporters as well as him is the worst thing you can do if you hope to demobilise his base. It will only consolidate them behind him.

His supporters are probably especially sensitive to being written off as dead end, low intelligence, poorly educated, losers.  Paying them exaggerated (but not patronising) respect whilst highlighting how he disrespects them is probably the most effective line of attack.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jun 1st, 2016 at 07:20:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I must admit I don't get your argument. When the Le Pens took away working-class voters from the PCF, that included quite strong attacks on the PCF and its leaders, didn't it? IMHO if Mélenchon made a mistake, it wasn't attacking FN and Marine Le Pen itself, but maybe the delivery. Maybe he should have attacked the two main parties more at the same time. Maybe it's as some have argued on ET, that he was to too willing to prepare for a coalition with the PS. But maybe he just didn't found effective enough arguments to show why FN is a fraud on the working class.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 3rd, 2016 at 01:07:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's an interesting point, we see similar dynamics in the UK

Working class people used to be a reliable vote for Labour in the 70s who became the 80s thatcherite working classes. Now in the 21st century they are moving on to ukip. Yet Labour still believe that these people should be voting for them and barrack ukip in ways that continue to alienate the very electorate they seek to woo.

The problem for Labour is that they never understood why these people deserted them in the first place and continues to fail to see why ukip can be so attractive to a group of people who, on the face of it, seem to have so little to gain from voting for the right.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 05:00:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
though of course I probably misread or am misremembering.

Takes a generation to die off before things change. Or, theoretically, in a democracy, vote the generation out.


by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 07:36:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kuhn was referring specifically to the structure of scientific revolutions and resisted applying his theory to society as a whole. That hasn't stopped the wholesale adoption of his concepts of paradigm shift, normal science, and the sociological determinants of what is commonly thought to be conceivable, or common sense.

However there is no a priory reason why a generational change should lead to a paradigm shift - indeed the younger generation may cling to the old certainties more vehemently than those who came before. It takes the objective failure of a given set of ideas to achieve their desired goals for a mass re-examination to begin...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 03:21:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For Kuhn the change was more something he observed than something he theorized. And it wasn't specifically generational.  I believe he quoted Neils Bohr' mordant quip that change in physics occurred one death at a time. But it takes many such deaths to make a paradigm shift, but, depending on the nature of the evidence, it can occur more swiftly or not at all. But I read the book around 50 years ago - in the year it was published, I think.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere." (But it helps!)
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 03:33:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, of course. They need a Sanders/Corbyn figure to emerge and campaign on an anti-austerity economic view. But you're right, that's currently impossible.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 07:44:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There was an announcement that there would be a primary on the left in the beginning of December.

François Hollande later announced (via a nationally televised interview with a carefully selected group of journalists and citizens) that he would announce his intentions...in December.

So no, there are no credible plans for a primary on the left in France, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon has, logically, announced his intention to run for the Presidency in 2017 irregardless.

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 07:39:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. I guess that also means Hollande is running, because it leaves little time for PS to choose anyone else.

Looking at the Opinion polling for the French presidential election, 2017 the most likely result looks like LePen and whoever UMP nominates on to the second round, with Holland and Mélenchon fighting it out for third and fourth place.

by fjallstrom on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 09:13:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Arguably, he might be playing coy in order to not play the lame duck, in much the same way as his idol, François Mitterand, did in 1994, waiting until the last minute to decline to run, and in so doing giving his weak governement a little more political force.

It is a cottage industry among pundits here to attempt to ascertain the president's intentions...

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 11:13:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does PS lack any will to win the next election or what is going on?
I am on record for having called Hollande the French Zapatero as soon as 2012, mere months into Hollande's term. The course set then was very clear already. Sadly.

We know the French presidential system tends to make the people inside it totally deaf and blind, but this crowd is running it to new heights.

by Bernard on Thu Jun 2nd, 2016 at 04:19:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary.

"In contrast, current estimates would situation the economic impact to date on the French economy at perhaps 0.1%"

Should that not read suggest rather than situation?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 30th, 2016 at 02:05:16 PM EST
Duly corrected.
by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 06:37:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fine diary,thanks.
Where does 'Nuit Debout' fit into this if at all?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon May 30th, 2016 at 02:07:40 PM EST
It is of course a going concern, and somewhat a focal point, but not really a critical one. The street protests do not tend to focalise around the Place de la République, where Nuit Debout is centred. And, contacts I have who are participating in the ongoing protest are not going to Nuit Debout.

Having participated myself in the Indignados events five years ago, I do not get the sense that Nuit Debout is at all an equivalent (full disclosure, while I have an apartment right next to the Place de la République, I have not gone down there to participate). There is in my view much to criticise about how the organisation there, but then again, I haven't really been there except peripherally.

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 06:47:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would think it has to contribute to the overall sense of disaffection.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere." (But it helps!)
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 09:36:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but I don't think Nuit Debout captures anything but a small portion of it.

To participate in Nuit Debout, you need to have a lot of time on your hands. No children. No job to go to. No need to squeeze some money out of your day in order to pay the rent and feed the kids.

So, it has a certain demography which, unfortunately, isn't particularly credible from the point of view of the average voter or striker.

But yes, insofar as it reflects already present tensions, it is a product of the times.

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 11:08:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just happened to be staying with a friend in the heart of Paris in May '68, and it was very violent, pitched battles under my windows.
From what I see on Italian media of it (there's precious little, don't want any cross-border solidarity, do we now?) the violence is much less still, is that correct?

Nuit Debout seems more cultural than political from here. Disaffection yes, but somewhat amorphous and unpolemic. More a test run to see how many of us we are/could be. After the Hebdo incident, how much right to freely assemble do we have left? If we don't use it, we'll lose it, or forget we can, that it's a defining tradition, a patriotic heritage.
As I understand it, the potency of the '68 riots was due to the confluence of students (60's demographic bulge) and working class unions, a political more than cultural event.
Head-bashing seems to be the elite's answer to both forms of protest, when in doubt...
Not recalling any tractors in '68. Were farmers involved then?
They usually get their way, don't they?
Several factions appear to be simmering, yet all are coming from different angles still, with few exceptions.
It would not surprise me if France were -again- the first country in Europe to throw off the demeaning shackles of modern feudalism aka neoliberal austerity.
It's in their blood.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 12:03:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My (first, we shall see for the following) mrriage was interrupted, in 1992, but tractors blocking the freeways.

Farmers equally blocked the freeways a couple of months ago to protest low market prices for pork and for daily products, but the Hollande government succeeded in keeping them at least a little less discontent via some govenrment funded investment support, as well as some tax abatements/

Back in 1992, it wasn't just the farmers. If I recall correctly, air traffic controllers and/or pilots were also on strike, as was the SNCF, cutting off rail. In any even, if you wanted to make your way to my wedding from any place other than Italy (I was in Toulon at the time) you had to take the side roads.

Fun times.

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 12:10:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
dairy products, not daily products.
by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 12:11:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks, I did wonder about the ET view of what's going on

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 31st, 2016 at 07:41:45 AM EST
Thank you very much for this great overview and analysis.

the "inversion des norms," a key part of the French labor code which requires that all worker contracts within a given sector obey a certain set of minima

How is a company formally determined to belong to which sector?  Does a company that otherwise meets all criteria (e.g. number of employees, capitalization, etc.) have to belong to one sector or another?  Are there criteria that may exempt a company from belonging to any sector?

One misunderstood aspect in the anglo-saxon press of France's workforce is just how low France's level of unionisation is.

Yes, this was news to me.  Thanks for explaining how the hierarchy of norms accounts for the power of labor unions in France, despite the low unionization level.

... the article has been in place, and often used, since the institution by General de Gaulle (and voted by referendum) of the 5th Republic itself.

Are there other Western European countries that have a similar article to 49-3?

consumer demand cannot help but be undermined in the short term

Can you explain this point further?

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Wed Jun 1st, 2016 at 02:02:44 AM EST
similar language in the German constitution, I don't know if any other countries have similar clauses.

A company doesn't necessarily need to be operating under a Convention Collective, indeed some small businesses do not, but depending on a company's commercial activity, many companies are so required to operate under a Convention Collective. And, if a company is a member of ony one of the Employer Unions, they are also required to  operate under a Convention Collective.

What I mean by softness in consumer demand, insofar as the law makes it easier to fire employees, in addition to the reduction in overtime payments (both timing and amount) that will result from certain measures, companies will find themselves able to pay less; this facilitates precarité and lower salary levels, which are direct reductions in consumer demand all other things being equal. Given the operating multiplier we are at, roughly 1.4 or 1.5 in the delveraging environment we find ourselves in, each Euro taken out of an employees pocket will likely result in 1.40 or 1.50 less in overall consumer demand. The hope is that this will be offset by increased business investment, though there is no empirical evidence that such measures actually spur overall business investment levels.

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2016 at 09:12:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anglo Saxon democracies have a somewhat similar mechanism whereby a Government can declare a particular legislative vote to be an issue of confidence.  This means that it regards that particular issue as so important that it is threatening to call an immediate general election should it lose the vote.  This is usually sufficient to to drag recalcitrant bank benchers back into line as few, if any, would welcome the prospect of precipitating an early general election few people want.

It was the threat of another general election which ultimately forced Fianna Fail to "accommodate" a minority Fine Gael led administration last month. Similarly Fianna Fail have been forced to abstain on issues of confidence such as annual budgets and cabinet re-shuffles for the next three years.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jun 1st, 2016 at 02:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Strikes, floods, protests and sense of betrayal pile on misery for France | World news | The Guardian

The national disruption comes a year before a presidential election in which François Hollande's chances of winning a second term appear nonexistent, even though figures show that France may be emerging from economic crisis. Last month the Economist said France's economy was showing signs of growth and there were "indications that confidence is returning".

Not quickly enough, perhaps, for Hollande and his Socialists, but then the confidence problem goes much deeper than opposition to one law, or even opposition to the party in power or the man at the Elysée. France is going through a long-term political existential crisis, summed up by the morose phrase, heard often of late, "France is unhappy".

Angei admitted that discontent in France goes deeper than the labour law. "This law takes us back 200 years, but the battle has crystallised a lot of the unhappiness in France and has revealed the malaise that exists. The reason we've seen lots of people on the streets is because people feel this government has betrayed them.

"François Hollande was elected on a leftwing programme; he said he didn't like the world of finance, then he comes to power and supports the bosses. The ordinary citizen sees this and doesn't identify with this government."

Mickael Maindron, 38, a technology consultant, said: "It's true we're not very happy at the moment, although the French do have a tendency to complain, but the political parties are asking us to make efforts and these efforts are not being translated into benefits in daily life. It feels like we've been in a state of permanent crisis for the last 30 years."

Warning: Contains some amount of neo-lib drivel and Confidence Fairy cultism.
by Bernard on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 04:10:01 AM EST

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