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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Travailler plus à moindres frais

by Cécile Rousseau

Work more at a lower cost

Translated Saturday 28 January 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

To reduce the cost of labor, the government is pushing competitiveness employment.

Competitiveness employment: from the government to the employer’s association, the MEDEF, they all have the same word in their mouths. Since the publication of November’s unemployment figures, the worst in twelve years, the right wing has again been agitating this measure as the anti-unemployment solution.

Competitiveness employment consists in adjusting the working week in accordance with the company’s needs. It makes it possible to reduce costs by increasing the time worked or by modulating down the hourly wage, supposedly so as to maintain employment in a difficult economic context. Trade union opposition to this measure – which is pure profit to the employer – is practically unanimous. For Maurad Rabhi, who is responsible for employment questions for the CGT trade union confederation, “these agreements undermine the essential bases of the labor contract, notably pay and qualifications. There are other measures that modulate working time without infringing on the contract, such as the repartition of working time over a one-year period.”

François Chérèque, the general secretary of the CFDT trade union confederation, who was received at the Labor Ministry on January 12, expressed his worry in the run-up to the January 18 jobs summit. He thinks that competitiveness employment and the social value added tax, two flagship measures for the reduction of labor costs that are on the agenda, are “dangerous.”

Maurad Rabhi is furious. “With this system, they want to make the employees pay for the consequences of the economic crisis, and what is more, without any jobs guarantee!”

It should be remembered that such an accord, in force at Continental in 2007, did not prevent the factory from closing.

The push for competitiveness employment is having another negative effect: It is totally dominating the on-going negotiations on "partial unemployment", a different modulation of working time, which is less advantageous to companies. Today’s meeting between the trade unions and management to harmonize the partial unemployment mechanisms will most likely prove to be a failure.

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