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Europe, France

France: from economic to social crisis

The number of jobless people in France hit a 12-year high in November in the latest sign that austerity measures taken by President Sarkozy and by major trading partners are beginning to really hurt in the Eurozone’s second largest economy.

Labour ministry data showed that the number of registered jobseekers in mainland France rose by 29,900 in November to reach 2.85 million, up 1.1% on the month and 5.2% on the year.

This seventh consecutive monthly rise brought the jobless total to its highest level since November 1999. The figures showed a strong rise in long-term unemployed, young people and those on non-permanent contracts.

French unions slammed the figures and called for a fresh mobilisation of public and private sector workers on January 18, in support of demands for an alternative to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recessive policies. The CGT is calling for:

  • A boost to jobs and purchasing power
  • Clearer link between companies receiving state support and job creation
  • Measures that maintain people in employment, including on a part-time basis, while business activity is reduced
  • An end to tax incentives for overtime

The French Communist Party also pinned the blame squarely on the Government which, it said, had been “multiplying austerity plans, making demand and growth collapse into recession.”

In a statement, the party predicted worse to come with Sarkozy planning to cut employers’ social security contributions and wages at a forthcoming “social summit” with unions and employers.

The PCF said that instead of ‘blackmailing workers to trade working conditions for jobs’, it should put a stop to the huge sums paid out in dividends by companies to shareholders, which, together with fat charges levied by banks on non-financial companies, totalled Euros 318 billion in 2010.

The PCF, part of the Left Front, wants social security contributions tied to training, jobs and decent wage levels, plus penalties for companies who shift production abroad, engage in financial speculation and use technology to cut jobs or slash working conditions. It also wants to see new supervisory and decision powers to be given employee representatives on company works councils.

In order to create the conditions for a sustainable recovery from economic crisis, the PCF argues for a complete revamp of the banking system, driven by a new “public finance pole”, financing, at low rates, projects that create jobs, upgrade skills and add to economic development of the country.

This would require a radical change in the currently deflationary European monetary policy in which national governments and the European parliament wrest back control from bankers, it adds.

France’s large employers accelerate downsizing plan

Last month plans by carmaker Peugeot (PSA) to cut thousands of jobs in France made headlines. Since then large employers have been accelerating their plans to lay off employees. Here’s a round up:

Automobile sector

PSA Peugeot Citroën

2011-2012 : 6,250 posts axed in Europe of which 4,200 in France, including 2,200 in R&D, plus the non-renewal of temporary contracts for 800 workers.

Renault

2011-2012 : the carmaker says it is seeking to maintain jobs so is currently looking at reducing working time for existing workforce.

MBF Technologies

2011 : 199 posts axed out of 450 workers for this automobile supplier.

Banks

Across Europe 92,100 posts have been axed since the start of 2011. In France, BNP, Société Générale et Crédit Agricole were the first to announce job cuts, including hundreds of jobs in their investment banking arms

Crédit Agricole

2011-2012 : 2,350 posts, of which 850 in France.

BNP Paribas

2011-2012 : 1,396 posts globally, of which 373 in France.

Société Générale

2011-2012 : 600 posts axed

Nuclear sector

Areva

2011-2012 : 1,200-1,500 jobs cuts, mainly in Germany. In France, the chief executive has denied claims by the CGT that there will be a hiring freeze in 2012, leaving 1,200 posts unfilled

Pharmaceuticals

2011: 10,000 jobs lost worldwide.

Pfizer France

2011-2012 : 225 posts axed in France. Prior to that, in 2008-2009, 700 posts cut.

Abbott

2011-2012 : closure of Fournier lab in Dijon hitting 200 out of a total of 300 jobs.

Sanofi

2011-2012 : 1,400 posts axed, of which 555 posts in Europe, as yet none in France.

Transport

Air France

2011-2012 : 2,000 posts axes in addition to over 4,000 posts over past 15 months, or about 10% of the company workforce.

Nouvelles Frontières

2011-2012 : 400 posts axed in France.

Seafrance

2012 : 880 jobs under threat.

Environment

Veolia

2011-2012-2013 : 7,000-8,000 posts axed in France.

Media

“Paru-Vendu”

2011 : 1,650 posts axed.

“France-Soir”

2011 : 89 out of 127 axed

Les Journaux du Midi (“Le Midi libre”)

2011 : 158 out of 1,070 posts axed.

“L’Expansion”

2012 : 9 out of 30 posts under threat.

“Le Parisien”

2012 : 48 (of which 27 journalists) out of 537 jobs under threat.

Public sector

As part of 2007 plan to replace only one out of every two retiring civil servants…

2011 : 31,538 posts axed

2012 : 30,401 posts axed of which 14,000 in Education alone.

Sources: Nouvel Obs Financial Times PCF CGT

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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