Thursday, April 13, 2006

CPE and all that

"You're fired!" is a statement not often heard in France, despite the high pressure of some executive positions in major companies that have their head offices in La Défense. Even petits boulots (which could be translated into 'dogsbody jobs' in English) are not easily lost. There are all kinds of laws protecting the vulnerable employee from the ruthless employer and you really have to do something serious to hear that immortal phrase. Of course companies making cutbacks and handing out redundancies to people approaching retirement age is another reason to lose your job, but frankly, in France, with a contract in your fist you're pretty safe. I know of no other country (but please correct me if I'm wrong) where employees have as many rights as here in France.

So you can understand when young people start marching the streets in protest against a contract which will effectively make them as expendable as workers in the US and the UK, not to mention the rest of the world.

You can understand when the young shout out in protest that it wouldn't be fair to employ them with the threat of firing for no valid reason for two years hanging over their head.

You can understand when they scream that it's not fair to apply this rule only to the inexperienced under-26 population.

What I cannot understand is why, after being so strong, tough and almost Thatcheresque in his previous discourse, Dominique de Villepin has now retreated under the table trembling with fright that he may not be able to wear a nice tie and speak to his "chers compatriotes" as Monsieur le Président by the time the elections come around in 2007.

As an English person, I really believe that the most sure-fire way to guarantee more strikes in the future and nation-wide chaos is to give in to strikers. I am certainly not saying that I agree with the conditions of the CPE, I think he never should have put it forward in the first place, but what I'm saying is that if you're going to push something through, push it. Nobody respects a scaredy-cat.

The answer, as far as I can see is to focus on training issues. Let's teach the young how to communicate better in English for international communication, how to use computer software more easily, how to give presentations, negotiate, how to do effective job interviews, CV writing and all the other skills that we never realise are important until we're faced with reality.

Let's train the youth of France to perform on a higher level with more marketable skills, perhaps then at least the demonstration banners will be more interesting to read.

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