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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les chômeurs en ligne de mire

Taking aim at the unemployed

Translated Saturday 10 May 2008, by Edward Lamb

Taking no heed of the labour unions’ unanimous opposition, the government has engaged in its reform of "valid job offers" aimed at penalizing the unemployed. The MEDEF (employer’s union) exults.

As a result of the three party meeting (State, labour unions, employer’s unions) convened by Christine Lagarde, French Minister of Economy, Industry and Employment, the Secretary of State for Employment, Laurent Wauquiez, announced that a law proposal will be presented before the end of the Parliamentary session, without recourse to negotiation with the partenaires sociaux (social partners) [1]

"Valid employment offers"

The government’s draft is based on the definition of a "valid employment offer".

The job seeker must satisfy new obligations comprising "a professional plan" concluded with the administration born of the recent merger between the ANPE (National Employment Agency) [2] and the ASSEDIC [3]) are the two French national organisations concerned with unemployment and job seekers.]].

The law proposal provides that unemployed workers during the first three months should accept any job paying wages equal to those of the worker’s previous salary.

The rules would change at the end of those three months. That delay exceeded, the unemployed worker would be required to accept a 5% decrease in wages for any job offer "compatible with his qualifications".

At the end of six months, the job seeker would be required to accept a 20% decrease in salary for an occupation demanding fewer than two hours a day in transportation time.

At the end of one year, a welfare recipient would have to accept any position paying more than unemployment insurance benefits.

Each time, the welfare recipient has the right to refuse a job, but after two refusals, he would be penalized by eradication from the ANPE (National Employment Agency) files. This would lead to the suppression of his unemployment insurance benefits.

The Secretary of State for Employment, Laurent Wauquiez, indicated, however, that penalties applied to welfare recipients as of their second successive refusal of a "reasonable" job offer, would be further defined as the result of a meeting with the partenaires sociaux concerning unemployment benefits.

The MEDEF (employer’s union) said it was totally satisfied. Already, on May 6th, during an earlier conference, the MEDEF’s president Laurence Parisot, had preceded Christine Lagarde in hoping that the conditions according to which unemployed workers would be able to refuse a certain number of employment offers "be examined" between the "social partners", and not be imposed by the government alone.

The Code du travail (Official Code of Labour Regulations) already allows the ANPE (National Employment Agency) to eradicate from their lists job seekers having refused an employment offer corresponding to their qualifications, professional experience, the level of salaries applied in the region, and their possibilities of geographical mobility.

On the other hand, all the trade union organisations and associations for the defense of the unemployed or redundant workers were unanimous in rejecting a veritable "anti-unemployed worker’s plan".

According to the secretary-general of the CGT labour union, Bernard Thibault, this proposal will encourage "social dumping and the policy of the lowest bidder" to affirm his labour organisation’s opposition to the bill.

For Gabrielle Simon of the Christian Trade Union (CFTC), "the fact that 43% of workers on the unemployment insurance payrolls are actually working part time shows that they are not people who refuse to work.

The suppression of the DRE for jobless workers after the age of 57½

Exemption from active job research or dispense de recherche d’emploi (DRE) accorded to jobless workers after the age of 57½ (55 years old, in certain cases) should progressively disappear starting in 2009 for people recently inscribed on the unemployment rolls.

The exact schedule could be the object of consultation between the "social partners" within the framework of a workshop on the "employment of senior citizens", which should take place shortly.

Tuesday morning, while paying visit in the Gard, the Chief of State confirmed, without defining a precise schedule, the progressive raising of the age level for being exempted from active job research.


Translator’s notes :

[1The social partners are the trade unions and the employers (or their representative organisations) engaged in social dialogue.

[2Agence Nationale Pour Emploi (job centre for employment seekers)

[3ANPE and ASSEDIC Association pour l’Emploi Dans l’Industrie et le Commerce (the unemployment office)

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