July 23, 2007

HARD ENOUGH JUST TO TURN THE SHIP:

Winds of Reform in France: The French Parliament is making big changes, thanks to a philosophical shift at the top. (Jurgen Reinhoudt, July 23, 2007, American)

The French House approved a 10 to 13 billion Euro per year tax cut package on July 16th, while the Senate is set to review it starting the 25th. And while the House was busy reviewing the tax cut package, the Senate reviewed ways to make it more difficult for unions to organize paralyzing strikes.

The Senate’s measure would force workers, on an individual basis, to declare themselves in favor of a strike to their employers 48 hours before beginning any strike. In addition, the Senate voted to mandate that, if employers so wish, a secret ballot vote must be held among workers on whether or not to continue a strike beyond an 8-day period. The bill also mandates that a minimum level of ground transport (rail and other) service be maintained throughout the duration of a strike, making full paralysis much more difficult for unions to achieve. The House is set to review this set of reforms, the so-called “minimum service law”, starting July 30th.

Needless to say, this package of reforms has angered the left, in and outside of Parliament. Unions have already announced a protest day, July 31st, to express their anger at the reforms, with an alphabet soup of major national unions all participating. Their anger doesn’t mean that the right to strike has been fatally wounded; to the contrary, it would emerge unscathed. The change concerns what effect those strikes can have: implicitly, Sarkozy’s cabinet and his Parliamentary majority want to remove the de facto veto that unions currently hold over decisions taken by democratically elected legislators. The right to strike is one thing, but bringing the country—including those who are not striking—to a standstill is quite another.

Also in store: much-needed reforms to France’s stale system of higher education, proposals for which have already angered leftist student organizations.

Yet what matters as much as the measures themselves is the fundamental change in attitude that Sarkozy and his team bring to the table.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 23, 2007 10:11 PM
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