It is Better Than Working for a LIving

The French government recently passed a law which allows employers to fire their employees if they choose to do so.

Yes, I know. I, too, was shocked when I first heard about it. But then I discovered that the law only applied to workers who were 26 years old or younger, and only if they had been on the job for less than 2 years. Employers can give workers the boot without stating a reason as long as those conditions exist.

Young people arenít taking this lying down, though. Hundreds of thousands of them have taken to the streets in protest, causing major disruption and even some property damage. So far we havenít seen as much arson like we did last year in French cities, but itís possible that it could happen. That would be somewhat ironic since I figure that the favorite target of the protesters (cars) are owned by people who need them to get to work.

This sort of thing just seems bizarre beyond words to those of us in the United States, particularly blue- and grey-collar workers such as myself. There are actually hundreds of thousands of French people who think itís unacceptable that an employer, the person who owns the business, can tell you that he doesnít want to pay you any more?

I knew intellectually that the nanny state had gotten way out of hand in Europe, but I was really having trouble wrapping my head around this concept. At least I was until I read a paragraph from the news story linked to above.

“They’re offering us nothing but slavery,” said Maud Pottier, 17, a student at Jules Verne High School in Sartrouville, north of Paris, who was wrapped in layers of scarves as protection against the chilly, gray day. “You’ll get a job knowing that you’ve got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked.”

I just love that! So now the definition of slavery is “Having to do what your employer wants you to do or maybe get fired.” Strange how Lincoln didn’t mention that in his Emancipation Proclamation.

The French government makes no bones about the reason why such a law was passed. The economy is in serious trouble, and unless some measures are taken it will just keep edging closer to collapse. This new law seems incredibly minor to me, more of a first step that might lead to something that is actually effective. But, incredibly minor or not, it still prompted massive protests and acts of civil disobedience.

In light of this, I think that Iím safe in saying that the French are toast.

7 thoughts on “It is Better Than Working for a LIving”

  1. Ah, the French are “toast,” indeed. But, surely, you are too kind. In another venue I’d’ve used another, more descriptive noun. Care to conjecture?

  2. Last fall, when the muslims in the suburbs were rioting, someone said they were just doing what Frenchmen always do.

  3. I had the experience of firing a French employee ten years ago. We hired him based on good references and interviews, but discovered immediately that it wasn’t working. He pissed off our customers, and when his managers tried to correct him, he got pissed off at them. The company was too small to spend the effort to raise up a basket case, so I decided to fire him. He had only worked for us for one month, but it cost me more than a year’s salary in compensation in order to get the separation approved by the French government.

    So when I heard about these latest strike/riots I gave a little sigh of sympathy for the poor French business people. But then, I thought – it’s Spring Break, this class of students hadn’t had a good riot yet, who knows, maybe the new law will stand. After all, French toast has been around a long time.

  4. The march has petered out & the demonstrations begun.

    We’ve had riots and are still standing; the French have regular riots and, even if they’ve gone through many more governments in the last couple of hundred years than we have, they, too, are still standing. But the riots today might also remind us of Claire Berlinski’s advice in her Glenn/Helen interview – that America needs to have contingency plans in case the whole European scene falls apart.

    And it isn’t much fun working in a business where no one is ever fired. I am afraid I created something that too often resembled that – and it was especially not fair to those who worked. And it was a much happier place when I was a stronger boss. I suspect it was co-workers more than bosses or customers or perhaps even profit line that were most affected – not that those weren’t. too.

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