Protests mar run-up to French vote on 35-hour week

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at SPAMbom4.vsnl.net.in
Sat Dec 4 22:36:56 MST 1999



1 December 1999
Protests mar run-up to French vote on 35-hour week
PARIS: Protests dogged the run-up to Tuesday's final parliamentary vote on a
new French law to cut the workweek, which workers fear will hurt their pay
packet. With the main body of the controversial law already in place, a
rewritten secondary bill to complete the legislation was expected to slip
fairly easily through the National Assembly in a vote on Tuesday evening for
final adoption in December.
The vote was overshadowed by protests as staff at the prestigious Galleries
Lafayette store in Paris stormed out while demonstrators gathered for a
march to the National Assembly. The unrest started in the transport and
broadcast industries earlier this month and has spread to the mining region
of eastern France.
Some 800 miners took to the streets of Metz, setting fire to vehicles and
hurling missiles at police. "This law has been made to succeed," Labour
Minister Martine Aubry told LCI television, touting a fresh fall in
unemployment in October to 2.67 million. "I listen to people's worries and
their impatience (but this is being done) so that tomorrow the unemployed
will be able to find themselves positions in firms."
The plan to whittle down the workweek to make space for new jobs, an Aubry
brainchild heralded by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin as a future motor of
employment, has clocked up some 130 hours of government debate. The
left-wing government believes it will cut the jobless rate, already edging
downwards from the lofty figures of recent years, with a fall to 11 percent
in October.
But the move is causing headaches as bosses try to maximise work time and
workers demand guarantees of job creation. November saw rubbish piling up on
underground train platforms, public transport at a standstill in two cities,
post disrupted and national news bulletins scrapped as workers walked out in
protest protest over 35-hour-week negotiations.
Hundreds of executives have demonstrated in Paris, fearful they could end up
working longer hours once their worktime is calculated in days per year
rather than hours per week. Other workers are demanding salary increases to
compensate for the loss of overtime pay. Employers' association Medef,
leading the fight against the legislation, says if the law is passed in its
entirety it will force businesses abroad in search of cheaper labour.

 For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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