Refinery Strikes Typical of French Labor Relations

Paris France
View of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France (Unsplash/Rodrigo Kugnharski)

France announced on Wednesday it would tap into its strategic oil reserves to make up for shortages caused by strikes at oil depots and refineries.

Some train and metro workers have joined the action to protest proposed changes in the labor code.

Earlier this month, President François Hollande’s Socialist Party government introduced reforms that would make it easier for firm to lay off workers and give small companies more flexibility to negotiate wages and conditions directly with their employees.

Most unions, many of which are affiliated with the Socialist Party, have endorsed the reforms, which were watered down in order to win their support.

But the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and Workers’ Force (FO), the country’s first and third largest federations, are divided. Read more “Refinery Strikes Typical of French Labor Relations”

Parliaments Force Rethink of Workers Directive Reform

Ten Central and Eastern European countries plus Denmark have forced the European Commission to reconsider reforms that would raise wages for workers from those nations if they are employed abroad.

The three Baltic states, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia all object to changes in the so-called Posted Workers Directive that would make their workers less competitive.

With the support of Denmark, they meet the eleven-country threshold needed to trigger a “yellow card” procedure. This was introduced in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty to give national parliaments the power to delay European legislation.

The commission is under no obligation to withdraw its proposal, however, which enjoys broad support.

Valentin Kreilinger, a research fellow at the Jacques Delors Institut in Berlin, tells EurActiv that a “yellow card” has only been invoked twice before. Once the commission withdrew its proposal; the other time it stayed the course. Read more “Parliaments Force Rethink of Workers Directive Reform”

French Socialists Enact Labor Reforms by Decree

French president François Hollande delivers a news conference in Brussels, September 23, 2015
French president François Hollande delivers a news conference in Brussels, September 23, 2015 (European Council)

For the second time in as many years, France’s Socialist Party is enacting labor market reforms by decree, bypassing parliament.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended the unusual move on Tuesday, saying, “the country must move forward.”

Left-wing deputies booed Valls’ speech while hundreds of thousands of students and trade unionists demonstrated against the reforms outside.

But Valls and his boss, President François Hollande, appear convinced the reforms are not only necessary but could help them politically. Read more “French Socialists Enact Labor Reforms by Decree”

Italy Adds Job But Labor Divide Persists

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi delivers a news conference in Rome, January 13
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi delivers a news conference in Rome, January 13 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi hailed a drop in unemployment the national statistics agency announced on Friday as proof that his reforms are paying off.

But the decrease was hardly inspiring. The eurozone’s third economy added some 90,000 jobs in March, bringing the jobless rate down from 11.6 to 11.4 percent.

Unemployment has been steadily falling since Renzi, a social democrat, took office in early 2014. Labor reforms his government enacted last year do appear to have had an impact. But there is more to be done. Read more “Italy Adds Job But Labor Divide Persists”

France Waters Down Proposed Labor Reforms

François Hollande
French president François Hollande delivers a news conference in Brussels, September 23, 2015 (European Council)

French prime minister Manuel Valls unveiled watered-down labor reforms on Monday following resistance from inside his own Socialist Party and its trade union allies to more far-reaching plans.

A proposal to allow small businesses to negotiate longer working hours directly with their workers was dropped as was a cap on the compensation judges can award employees who have been found to be wrongfully dismissed.

Both reforms could have given especially small companies some breathing space when the French economy is barely expanding and unemployment has been stuck at around 10 percent since the Socialists came to power in 2012. Read more “France Waters Down Proposed Labor Reforms”

Labor Reforms Divide France’s Ruling Socialists

French president François Hollande answers questions from reporters outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, April 13, 2013
French president François Hollande answers questions from reporters outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, April 13, 2013 (Valsts Kanceleja)

Leading Socialist Party lawmakers took to the page of Le Monde on Thursday to condemn labor reforms planned by President François Hollande.

“Enough is enough!” write Martine Aubry and seventeen other leftwingers. They argue that Hollande’s belated attempts to liberalize the labor market will “weaken” France in the long term.

Aubry is the architect of France’s 35-hour workweek and contested the Socialist Party’s presidential nomination in 2011. Hollande bested her at the time with 57 to 43 percent support. Read more “Labor Reforms Divide France’s Ruling Socialists”

Immigrants Unlikely to Plug Germany’s Skills Gap

Muslim family
A Muslim family walks in a park in Germany, February 10, 2014 (Metropolico)

A record influx of asylum seekers is unlikely to help Germany plug a skills gaps in its labor market, experts warn.

“Let’s not delude ourselves,” Ludger Wößmann, the director of Ifo Center for the Economics of Education in Munich, tells Politico.

From everything we know so far, it seems that the majority of refugees would first need extensive training and even then it’s far from certain that it would work out.

More than a million immigrants arrived in Germany last year, a tenfold increase from 2013. And the flow of people shows no sign of slowing.

Many are refugees from the wars in Iraq and Syria, but a significant number are nationals of poor Balkan states seeking a better life in the West. Read more “Immigrants Unlikely to Plug Germany’s Skills Gap”

French Socialists Shy Away from Labor Reforms

François Hollande
French president François Hollande speaks with other European socialist party leaders in Brussels, March 19 (PES)

Labor reforms unveiled by French prime minister Manuel Valls this week shy away from weakening protections cherished by his Socialist Party and its trade union allies, including the country’s 35-hour workweek and indeterminate-term contracts.

“Our principle is to bring more flexibility but not less protection,” Valls said.

His plan tinkers around the edges of the jobs market. It would let firms negotiate working conditions with their employees rather than trade union representatives, for example, and allow them to opt out of some of the thousands of national work regulations that are especially onerous for small companies.

But to the dismay of employers, key recommendations from labor experts have been thrown out. Read more “French Socialists Shy Away from Labor Reforms”

Democrats Resist Weakening Decades-Old Social Model

Democrats in the United States are deluding themselves and their voters if they vow to resist changes in the economy over which politicians have little control.

From their doubts about a transpacific trade pact to fights against flexible labor relations, Democrats are showing themselves to be uncomfortable with many of the tenets of globalization that have redefined the world economy since the 1980s. Read more “Democrats Resist Weakening Decades-Old Social Model”

Proposed Reforms Sustain French Labor Market Divide

Paris France
Night falls on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in downtown Paris, France, March 13, 2011 (Flickr/Aeror)

French president François Hollande’s proposed labor reforms don’t go nearly far enough to revitalize a sclerotic jobs market.

Among eighteen measures unveiled on Tuesday to encourage hiring are a €4,000 bonus for entrepreneurs who employ their first worker and extending the period during which companies can employ people on a temporary basis to eighteen months.

Temporary work contracts account for 80 percent of the jobs created in France, where unemployment has remained stuck at around 10 percent since Hollande took office in 2012.

However, most workers are still on long-term contracts that come with generous benefits and high job security. Read more “Proposed Reforms Sustain French Labor Market Divide”