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by JB

Gérard Filoche: “Most overtime is not declared”

Translated Monday 6 August 2007, by Chidubem

Gérard Filoche, a labour inspector, has to deal with the Sarkozy slogan “work more to earn more” (travailler plus pour gagner plus) in practical terms.

Huma: Nicolas Sarkozy promoted his overtime reforms from the angle of increasing the purchasing power and the freedom to work longer hours. Is this "freedom" realistic?

Gérard Filoche: No. It is the employer who decides unilaterally, right from the start, the employment conditions and when the labour contract will terminate, the number of hours of work, whether or not overtimers rates will apply. If we say that the employee has any choice in matters concerning the working hours, that would be a lie.

Huma: Do you think that employers will make workers work much more?

Gérard Filoche: It is difficult to say. In France, there are no serious statistics. The surveys carried out on the actual number of working hours do not take into consideration companies that have less than 20 employees where most of these overtime incidents occur. This represents about 5 million people. Moreover, these surveys are based on the employers’ declarations, but more than half of them do not declare them within the statutary rate.

A study that was published over ten years ago by Jean Matteoli, at the time president Economic and Social Council, reported a figure of 1.2 billion hours of overtime taken, the equivalent of 680,000 jobs. There has certainly been much more after the 35 hours came into effect, since thirteen hours of overtime per week were allowed instead of nine hours.

Huma: With the 25% overtime increment, will the overtime pay actually increase workers’ salaries?

Gérard Filoche: Presently, there are six levels of overtime pay: 10 %, 25 %, 50 %, 100 % and compensatory leaves calculated at 50 % or 100 %. One single rate at 25% can therefore eliminate four rates. Normally, the more overtime there is, the more costly things should be for the employer to stop him from taking advantage of this at the expense of the wellbeing of workers and jobs. In small companies where employees work 39 hours, additional hours will be increased by 10%.

The Left had an overtime rate of 25% from the 1st of January 2005 It was François Filon, prime minister at the time, who blocked this it by deferring it to January, 2008. For three years therefore, these workers have been working more and earning less. The former labour minister also raised the permitted overtime from 130 to 220 hours a year, with possibilities of a dispensation up to 360 hours in the hotels, cafés and restaurants. The 100% increase for overtime, supposed to be activated when the permitted number of hours was exceeded, was rejected. These workers have been earning less while working more.

Huma: Do employees get all their overtime claims paid these days?

Gérard Filoche: Most overtime is not declared. Nine out of ten complaints at the Labour Board have to do with unpaid overtime. Some sectors like construction, long-distance trucking, restaurants dry-cleaning, or in small scale businesses specialize in non payment of overtime. The fixed day for the managerial staff, which could easily be extended to almost all workers today, often provides a good excuse not to pay the overtime. These examples already show that employees work a lot but do not get paid for as much as they work or they get paid even less.

Author’s note: The most recent published work by Gérard Filoche: La Vie, la santé, l’amour sont précaires. Pourquoi le travail ne le serait-il pas?, Faut-il brûler le Code du travail? (Life, health, love are precarious. Why would work not be too? Should the labour laws be burned?) Jean-Claude Gawsewitch, publisher, 2006, 19 €.

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