Saturday, November 24, 2007

At Stake in France

"Sarkozy wants to fight his battles one by one. France has sluggish economic growth, a huge budget and social security deficit and massive debt that is worrying the EU. At the top of Sarkozy's long list of changes for France is installing a new work ethic where the French work more and for longer. Currently France works on average 617 hours a person a year, compared with 800 hours in Britain. To the government, reforming the special early pensions perks of 500,000 public sector workers was a logical place to start. It was also symbolic: in 1995 three weeks of crippling transport strikes brought France to its knees and forced Jacques Chirac to cave in on the same reform."

Some unconventional wisdom:

"Despite the mythology surrounding French unions in reality they are weak and divided. Trade union membership in France is among the lowest in the West. At 8% of the public sector and 5% of the private sector, membership is far behind the UK and even the US. There are more unemployed people in France than trade union members. In an average year the French miss proportionately fewer working days from strikes than Americans do. The transport strike has flagged up the weaknesses of unions as hardline grassroots continued their strike even as negotiations began."

The Guardian's repoting on Sarkozy and labor.

The BBC's more measured approach.

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