Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Problem with Frogs

They like to riot and they love to strike. The question is whether or not they ever understand what it is they are demonstrating against.

This time round, young people in France have been protesting a new labour law which is, in fact, designed to help them get work. The law is the Contrat Premiere Embauche – the First Employment Contract, and it is meant to reduce the risks for employers in hiring young, unproved workers, thereby making it more attractive for them to do so.


To be fair to the protesting students, there is potential for abuse of the law by employers. However, because it is difficult to fire workers in France, employers hesitate to hire young people who have not yet shown that they can contribute to a business.


Generally, new hires in France have a trial period of one to three months, during which time they can be let go without notice or a reason. The Contrat Premiere Embauche applies to under-26s and involves a two-year trial period, during which no reason for dismissal need be given. After one month of employment, a two-week notice period is required, and after six months, the notice period becomes one month. Because of the protests, the government has offered a compromise of cutting the trial period down to one year and requiring employers to give a reason for any dismissal.


The idea behind the law is to make it easier for young people to get jobs. In Europe, the average rate of unemployment for 18-25 year olds is 9.6%. In France it is over 20%. It seems to me that the students who are not going to their lectures in protest of the new law simply have no understanding of the way the real world works.


As the Russians like to say, France is the only truly successful communist country in the world.

11 comments:

sinsister steve said...

why not extend the right to the employers for anyone they hire? you have to admit they would never propose such a law for people 50 or older and those are the people who are really lacking basic skills in todays work environment. id be willing to say our office, as a whole, spends more than 20 hours a week helping our boss just figure out computer issues.

Max said...

SS, I believe you that there is a problem in your office, but I have not seen that people over 50 as a group lack basic skills. And at any rate, that is not the point of this law. The point of this law is to reduce the unemployment rate amongst the youth of France, the age group that needs the most help there. There is also age discrimination everywhere in the world, which is its own problem, but older people in Europe tend to stay in jobs and so there are not as many of them seeking employment or out of work.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Foutrez les vernouilles.

You could propose anti-suicide legislation to the French and, as soon as they were done rioting and burning Le Cars, they would all kill themselves in protest.

Which, of course, wouldn't be an entirely terrible thing.

I always liked my position as a U.S. employer: If you weren't under a standard employment contract, I could fire you without reason or notice.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

I'm sure French employers can't wait to hire all of these young rioters! Talk about a sense of entitlement.

Sinister Steve said...

The problem with firing without cause is that it ALWAYS looks like the employee's fault. The employer can abuse an employee in any manner he/she sees fit and then fire that employee without cause and yet it is that employee that has to explain at his/her next interview why they were fired.

Im not against being able to freely fire employees with cause. I think the US needs to apply the some of the same laws it has for non-exempt employees to exempt employees.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

But what exactly constitutes "cause?"

For example, if I had a sales clerk that wasn't specifically rude, wasn't technically breaking any rules, but was monotone, or passive aggressive in demeanor to the point that sales were most likely being adversely affected, I would feel compelled to fire them. If a bad attitude drags down the morale of fellow employees but doesn't exactly meet the conditions of "cause," what then?

Would "adversely affecting sales by being typical passive-aggressive self" constitute cause?

I'm willing to enter into employment contracts with capable employees but the lack of an employment contract gives me freedom of choice (an employee has to prove worthy of an employment contract over a significant period of time). The bottom line, of course, is what matters most. If someone is adversely affecting my bottom line, but in a way not concretely definable, I should be able to reserve the right to can their lazy ass.

"Cause" is fairly vague. When people are fired, they are fired for a reason. Good employees, quite simply, are very, very rarely fired because they are, by definition, so difficult to come by. There may not be "cause," but a fired employee wasn't likely a very good employee. The burden of explaining why they were fired should rest with them.

Sinister Steve said...

The current work environment here in the US is one in that the ability to "multi-task" is supposed to be some badge of honor. Basically what it means is that jobs that used to have 3-4 duties now have 10-20. You throw someone into this environment and I guarentee you can find cause to fire them.

I think there are some simularities between white collar America now and blue collar america before unionization. If an hourly worker was ever forced to 70 hours a week without extra compensation it would be illegal. That isnt the case with salaried workers.

So what happens when a white collar worker says "im not working Saturday this week"? They are fired for just cause.

A exempt (salaried) employee in a right to work state has no rights.

Im not familar with what is going on in France but I would like to think that they are little ticked that they are allowing a certain age group to be vunerable to labor laws while others just because of their age are protected.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

But, often, multi-tasking involves half assigned duties and half voluntary duties (personal e-mail, phone calls, investement tracking, fantasy sports, eBay auctions, etc.).

The majority of salaried positions involve employment contracts. Indeed, when employment contracts are in place, "cause" is necessary/mandated (and generally well defnined). And refusing to work overtime isn't necessarily cause.

As for working on Saturdays, well, I'd quote the venerable Super Chicken ("you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.") I'm only half-joking.

There will always be unreasonable, a-hole, bosses, partly because it's, to a degree, human nature and partly because poorly performing bosses are stressed out (and often underachieving themselves) to the point that they are slowly losing their minds.

Before I'd accept a salaried position, I'd certainly insist on an employment contract.

The real problem, often, comes from the fact that most prospective employees are, be it from financial duress or ignorance, negotiating from a position of weakness (read desperation). People are often so eager to accept a position that they are unwilling to either read the fine print or insist that it exists in the first place. People seem to accept positions first, based on pay or some idealized notion of what the position is/means, and worry about their rights (or whether they're even compatible with the position) well after the fact.

In France, essentially, hired employees are entitled to universal standards of benefits and/or rights, regardless of age. This has resulted in French employers becoming very, very careful about new hires, lest they get stuck with the typical lazy, smelly, entitled young Frenchman (we'll just call him Frenchie). Frenchie is so well protected that he's virtually impossible to fire, even though he may be worthless or rude (and likely smelly). This policy has lead to most French employers avoiding young workers as though they were young and smelly and from France.

The proposed policy would allow French employers to more carefully sniff out these young employees, take them for a test drive, as it were. If the worker turns out to be, in fact, a Renault Le Car, then the employer can move on to other employees (without having to pay for their wine and cheese for eternity) until they find a Frenchie that doesn't cop attitude and smell. France is hoping that such a policy will actually encourage employers to hire Frenchies, thus lowering the unemployment rate among the young (nearly 25%) and weaning the Frenchies from the teet of their social welfare system, the likes of which is slowly bankrupting their country. Frenchies, however, would prefer that the 75% that are employed reserve the right to remain entitled for the rest of their days rather than possibly lower the unemployment rate to something more civil.

The current revolt among Frenchies splits into three distinct categories.

1. I'm part of the 75% of Frenchies with universal, irretractable benefits and I'm not giving them up for anything or anybody, fuck you all.

2. I'm part of the 25% of happily unempolyed, wholly subidized lazy smelly bastards and I'm not giving that up for anyone or anything, fuck you all.

3. Let's burn some cars, fuck you all.

France (and Germany too) is slowly cannibalizing itself. Anything they do to change that (immigration reform, welfare reform, employment reform, etc.) results in mass revolt.

Personally, I prefer our system of continually borrowing so that these types of problems only rear their head well after I die.

Max said...

Update: Chirac has given in to the students and the CPE has been scrapped. The government will look for a different way to help the unemployed youth of France.

I was talking with a Frenchman about the issue last night, and he seemed to believe that the law was bad because employers would abuse the ability to be able to fire employees after two years so that they could again hire young cheap labour. Now we'll never know.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Chirac capitulated? I would have never guessed. If you want something in France, please, just revolt. It works every time.

Revolt and retreat, French traditions.

Celinka said...

The students will eventually come to their senses and pack up and come to Little France aka Quebec just as the French before them have caught on.