’35-hour work week must be relaxed’: Chirac
PARIS, July 14 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday he would ask his government to launch talks with employers and union leaders on ways to soften the controversial 35-hour work week.
In a wide-ranging Bastille Day interview on national television, Chirac said that while the 35-hour week should remain the legal standard, “workers need more freedom, especially those who want to work more to earn more.”
“Businesses also need more freedom in order to better adapt themselves to the market and for development,” the French president added.
When asked about companies that have threatened to pull out of France if their workers refuse to accept a longer work week, Chirac replied: “It’s a slippery slope on which one shouldn’t allow oneself to be dragged.”
At the weekend, France’s powerful Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy pressed for change in the 35-hour week in an interview with Le Monde newspaper, seen as a bid to mark out his own political positions ahead of Chirac’s interview.
Sarkozy said that employees should have the option of working longer hours if they want but pledged French workers would not be blackmailed into working longer hours.
A reform of the law “should be based on one principle: freedom of choice, permitting those who want to work longer earn more.”
The previous Socialist government brought in the 35-hour week, replacing a standard of 39 hours, to create jobs but also to shake up narrow-minded labour practices by giving companies more flexibility about scheduling work. At the same time, workers had to curb pay demands.
Subject: French news