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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le programme de démolition dans le texte

by Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy’s Program of Destruction – In His Own Words

Translated Friday 9 November 2007, by Gene Zbikowski

Sarkozy on the French social model, the 35-hour work week, retirement, special retirement plans, job contracts, social security, the hospitals, the representativeness of trade unions, labor contracts, unemployment, and job training.

The French social model

“The French social system discourages people from working, it discourages employers from hiring (...) it discourages people from working more hours, it discourages them from working beyond the age of 55 or 60.”

The 35-hour work week

“It’s going to be necessary to go further and to simplify certain aspects of the rules that govern working hours. These rules are among the most complicated in the world. ... We are going to have to make more space for industrial and company negotiations in determining the length of the work week.” The 35-hour work week “is fraught with consequences: the French work less, the down side is that there are more unemployed and there is less income to finance our social security system.”


“Each of us (should) have more choice on their decision to retire, while accepting all the consequences implied by that choice. There should be more to gain from working longer. ... Retiring earlier should be penalized more. ... I want to abolish mandatory retirement before the age of 65. ... As for allowing people not to look actively for work [unemployed people who are over 57 – editor’s note], this should be gradually abolished.”

Special retirement plans

“The priority is to deal with the question of the special retirement plans. ... The differences in working conditions that justified the granting of this or that particular advantage before the Second, and even the First World War, have been largely eliminated. It’s a question of fairness. We will not undertake a third pension reform without also reforming the special retirement plans.”

Job contracts

“A country where the breaking of a job contract by employers is subject to long and uncertain procedures is a country that encourages off-shoring, a country that doesn’t create many jobs or much wealth. ... The result of having too many rights is not protection, but the circumvention of the law, a boom in unstable jobs, and an atrophied economy. ... We cannot get by without reconsidering trial periods, compensation for firing, the jurisdictional competence of judges, the means to assure greater fluidity in reclassifying a fixed-term contract as a permanent job, the transferability of rights to on-the-job training and to insurance and mutual funds.”

Social security

“It’s not the job of universal medical insurance to pay for everything, without controlling or regulating anything. That’s why I’m opening a broad discussion of the financing of health care. What should be financed by the national social security system, and what should be financed by the individual through complementary social insurance policies?”

The hospitals

The public hospitals will be “entirely financed on the basis of the health care acts provided” in 2008.

The representativeness of the trade unions

« Today, labor representativeness is shattered and based on obsolete criteria and an inappropriate mode of financing. Consequently, I want the criteria governing representativeness and the question of financing to be examined. I hope that we can all agree to begin the reform of our system of labor relations, starting in 2008.”

The law and labor contracts

“Laws and regulations must not unduly limit the domain of labor contracts. ... Besides the regulatory and legislative norms, which fix general principles, we need to provide a true place for labor contracts, which are binding on capital and labor at every level, between industries, within industries, at the national or company level."


“I have asked [Finance Minister] Christine Lagarde to submit proposals to me, within two weeks, regarding the process of merging the national employment agency and the institution that manages unemployment insurance funds of the and that pays unemployment benefits. ... Let me make this perfectly clear: this merger will take place ... ! While defining – before the end of the year – the procedures and penalties to be faced by a job-seeker who refuses two successive valid job or training offers – procedures and penalties that will be at one and the same time, more efficient, firmer, and fairer, I am ready to discuss what constitutes a valid job offer and what the penalty should be.”

Job training

Reconciling flexibility and job security can only be accomplished through an efficient job training system. Our system is worn out, both in its organizational form and in the way it is financed. ... I am to ready to discuss the financing of joint contributions with capital and labor, and no subject is taboo.”

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