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France, Labour market reform

On Sarkozy and France in 2011 – and what must be done in 2012

FROM THE RADICAL PRESS – HUMANITE (FRANCE )

2011 was supposed to be “useful to the French” Nicolas Sarkozy assured us on TV some 12 months ago. France was to “reconnect with employment”. Which, since the 2007 Presidential election, has been on a downward curve, punctuated by “social plans” (mass redundancies) and relocations of [French] industrial plants overseas. Not only did the penultimate year of his five year term fail to reverse the trend, but it permitted the President of the Republic to achieve another record – the expansion of mass unemployment….

A useful year? Here’s some “usefulness” that the French could have happily done without…At the end of his Presidential mandate, the purchasing power of the great majority of French has fallen and unemployment has exploded. And the increase is accelerating: 30,000 more people out of work – of which the third comprises young people of less than 25 years old – in the month of November alone with 140,000 more jobless since the start of the year, a doubling of the rate seen in 2010…

Whose fault is this? La crise, the crisis, respond in chorus our dear ministers and commentators. The crisis is presented as an abstract thing, a contingency, a natural catastrophe, a reality as disembodied as “the markets that we must reassure.” The Government and the UMP believe that they have found a way of dodging their responsibilities. However, behind the crisis there are political choices that respond to very specific interests. Tax breaks, a lightening of ‘burdens’, tax relief on overtime, cuts to funding for public service employment, austerity measures that cut demand: these are some of the facts of the crisis and the recession of which Nicolas Sarkozy will not absolve himself easily.

He who claimed loud and clear at the start of his mandate that he would be judged by results has a calamitous record in the areas that most concern the French: jobs and the future for their children. Bard of “rupture”, in 2007 he committed to bring unemployment down to 5%. Five years later and a million extra unemployed, the moment is approaching when he will have to answer for himself.

Unable to completely rid the electoral debate of the issue of employment, Nicolas Sarkozy will try to spin in favour of the summit [with employers and unions] he is organizing for January 18. With respect to employment, the declarations made by [Labour Minister] Xavier Betrand on “competitiveness-jobs” pacts leads us to think that the Government wants to push the fire of deregulation, precaritisation and a lengthening of the working day to suit the bosses.

This Spring of 2012 we must make the general interest prevail over private interests. How should we characterise 2012? An idea and a wish: the year of a new departure.

L’année du départ? Éditorial par Jean-Paul Piérot, 28 December 2011

Ever more families in difficulty, tens of thousands more in the queues for the soup kitchens…Unemployment and precariousness growing among the young but not only. Rising gas prices, train tariffs….At some hours from the start of 2012, here’s a part of the social picture in the world’s fifth power, threatened by an overdose of economic fatwa from the ayatollahs of the AAA, who alone provide their own legitimacy, and whose views are full of contradictions, for example demanding cuts to public spending and then worrying about the negative consequences on growth prospects.

The Head of State and ministers…in order to fool us, and perhaps sometimes to fool themselves, are in denial about the consequences of their policies on the growth figures. Today, France is in recession. That’s the record of Nicolas Sarkozy. He goes from one region to the next like a baffoon singing to us “lets produce French” – a phrase mocked by the bien-pensants when the communists spoke of it….

According to a study published by Les Echos just under 900 factories have closed in France since 2009, representing 100,000 manufacturing jobs. Among the plants that have been closed is Gandrange which Sarkozy visited, flexing his muscles, promising he would save them.

The fault is la crise says the UMP, shamelessly employing the most hackneyed arguments. When it is going badly, it’s the economic cycle, competition from emerging economies, the weather. When it is going well, it’s the results of good policies. But even that is difficult to sustain for the reality is that everything is going badly and it’s the result of government policies….

Yesterday we heard that all Eurozone banks fed by giant loans from the European Central Bank were storing their loot. Why, when one of the key solutions to de-industrialisation is a policy of expansion, of credit, growth and jobs? And it is to the banks that the ECB lends instead of lending directly to Eurozone states. That’s the Europe of Merkel-Sarkozy. There are ever more poor people and the country itself is getting poorer. Fewer burdens on business, cuts to public services. And always more for finance.

But a policy for growth isn’t a policy for profit. In order that companies can do business there must be demand and we need roads, rail, training and research. In short, public spending and investment. It is for this that the Left, all the Left, must fight.

Tableau avant Nouvel An, Maurice Ulrich, 29 December 2011

Translations by Revolting Europe
Articles have been abridged.

About revoltingeurope

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

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