The CPE uproar: Letters to the Editor

5th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

Expatica France readers react strongly to the student and union protests of the last two weeks against the youth jobs contract, an issue that clearly highlights how differently expats see France's current unemployment and labour problems.

The first set of letters are responses to recent Editor's Diary entries that appear in our (free!) weekly newsletter. Specifically, I asked what the French protestors are really looking for and suggested, mostly tongue-in-cheek, that maybe what they want is to move to Denmark, as I've read so many recent favourable references in the French press to the 'modèle Scandinave'. Check out the Life in France channel to see samples of past Editor's Diary entries. — Expatica France Editor Clair Whitmer

Dear Editor,
I'm no expert on the problem of French unemployment but I have heard a few things along the way.
We rented a house that had no kitchen cabinets or counters so we ordered a complete kitchen from Hygena. Then they told us it would be four months until they could install it. When asked why, they said they only deal with one installer because he is so reliable. Well, we agreed and waited the four months. When he finally arrived, I asked him why he doesn't hire a helper to expedite his work.
He said he used to have a helper but the paperwork and Social Security costs associated with having an employee was a pain in his derriere so he decided it wasn't worth it. I don't know anything about the paperwork but apparently it's enough of a problem to cause this guy to not hire people when he clearly needs a helper.
The other thing that seems to be the problem is the inability of the French to come to grips with the idea that there is no employment security anymore and that they will have several or many jobs in their working life. This was something my generation (I'm now 64) had to recognize.
A third problem is the structure of the overtime payments. In the US one must work more than 40 hours to be eligible for overtime. Here, it is for work after 7pm and on Sunday as well. They need to adopt the US system that would make it more economical for stores to stay open longer and on Sunday. More hours of operations will mean more business, more employment and more taxes collected by the government.
The fourth thing the French government and all EU countries need to do is reduce this onerous TVA tax of 19.6 percent. If the cost of everything were not increased so much, people would have more disposable income to buy more things; hence there would be more employment.
James Kearney
(St. Jean de Braye, near Orleans)
Dear Editor,

I don't know if it is still true but a few years ago the Volvo contained more British-made parts than any so called UK car so maybe that shouldn't be used by any proponents of the Scandinavian model.  Also you asked what the French wanted? Simple: their cake and eat it.  Doesn't everyone?

John Manley
(Address not given)

Dear Editor,

I happen to be a Dane living in France for some three years now, and I have noticed that the Danish model seems to look tempting for some French.
Understandable, nobody — that is most people — do not speak of crises there all the time. The unemployment rate is rather low, and youth unemployment has been low for at least 10-15 years.
However, in Denmark there is no such thing as the kind of security that people seem to want in France. I can understand that the young are angry about special treatment (CPE) — one law for one people normally seems more fair — but do they prefer unemployment?
Denmark used to be one of the countries of Western Europe where it is rather easy to sack people or sack them for a while whilst the state pays unemployment money (a very common practise in fish factories where work is uneven).  It is like this even though Danes have a historically very high rate of membership of the trade unions.
Just to say, that judging from the protests against the CPE, I very much doubt that the French are looking for the entire Danish model since almost total job security is certainly not a part of it.
Solveig Tange
In response to: Life insurance, French-style

These young people who talk glibly about la précarité. I'm not American but we live with précarité all our life; in fact life is précaire especially in France if you're out in the cold without one of their wretched contracts! And the elders who give these youngsters their cue! How many of them have really had to make a living without depending on some quasi-governmental organization?

I can't help thinking there's a sort of conspiracy going on to ignore the facts. The country is spending more than it earns and a huge percentage of the young are out of work and their energy is being lost to the nation; it is clear the system is not working - but they don't want to change!

I'm not saying that the CPE is the greatest solution, in fact I can't see what justification exists for the government to be involved in contracts between employers and employees anyway, save in broad employment legislation terms, but there has to be some change especially in the light of the racial and sexual discrimination we know exists, which excludes so many youngsters.

Jupiter Sen
(Address not given)

Dear Editor,

Regarding your editorial on the strikes against the CPE, it is important to remember that the French absolutely will not tolerate arrogant behaviour from the government deciding and then decreeing without any consultation or negotiation. [Former prime minister Alain] Juppé learned the hard way in 1995 when he autocratically tried to ram through legislation. Can't imagine why politicians think the French people would ever accept that kind of arrogance.

Jennifer Humbert
(Address not given)

Dear Editor,

It's astounding to me that the French think they should be guaranteed the right to a job for life, but understand now why there is no concept of customer service in this country.

Where I come from you have to work hard and get a good education in order to get a good job. In general, one gets fired because you're not doing your job sufficiently well. Don't get me wrong, I love living in France, but they could use a lesson in how to compete in the world market in the 21st century.

In my dealings with pretty much any French business I am greeted with boredom and disdain by employees and have to speak with people who are apparently completely incompetent (don't even get me started on France Telecom!) Imagine an American company surviving with employees who are unhelpful and often rude, without the ability to hire someone who knows how to do the job better and more enthusiastically.

If anything, the new jobs contract should extend to all the French, not just those under 26. Then maybe I could get my ADSL line installed in less than six weeks.

Laurel Avery
(Address not given)

Dear Editor,

I do not understand these student protests. I lived in France for a time during the 1990's and found it to be a difficult place to do business, primarily because of the unrealistic expectations of potential employees being solicited to work for a start-up company.

Can a person who wants to offer their skills and be employed really afford to say to those doing the hiring: "You have to take care of me forever"?   It is recognized that the needs of employees change over the years and it is natural for protections to be offered to those that have offered years of service.

It is not healthy to insist that a 20 year old be offered a "job for life" right from the start. No sane employer would want to take the risk and there is no logical reason to do so.

In the United States and many other western countries, your time spent in your twenties represents a chance to experiment with your career and find out just what it is you want to do. Few find their calling in their first job out of school.

I sometimes think that these young French protesters must have their heads in the clouds to be thinking this way.

Tom Demos
(Address not given)

Dear Editor,

The dumb buggers rioting now for two weeks have been living in a socialist fairyland for 50 years — reality hurts — tough. Nobody owes anyone anything, especially not lifetime employment with 30 days off every year, guaranteed salary increases and unending benefits.

Fifty-two percent of the French workers are employed by one branch of government or other meaning they produce nothing of value and zero profits. They are living 100 percent from taxes imposed on those few remaining businesses that are desperately trying to produce some kind of honest profit.

These kids are raising hell about their government finally waking up and passing laws allowing employers to fire lazy or un-needed workers during the first two years. They have been spoon fed the socialist rot since birth. They have gown up in this sick environment and actually believe that the world owes them. They never have bothered to ask why?  Maybe they should.

Robert Firth
(Address not given)

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NOTE: The editor reserves the right to reasonably edit letters published here, for reasons of space or coherence. Readers opinions are published as independent comment and do not represent the views of Expatica France.

April 2006

© Expatica France

Subject: Living in France, French news, Letters to the Editor

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