EU attacks French trade union rights

Jean Pierre Barrios explains how the EU is behind French government attempts to undermine the country’s Labour Code.

The Treaty for Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG)  signed by Sarkozy then President of the Republic on 2 March 2 2012 and ratified by current President Hollande on 8 January 8 2013 reinforced the mechanisms enabling the European Union to “coordinate and monitor the economic and budgetary policies of the member states”. An “annual budgetary cycle” has been set up.

What is the link with the Hollande-Valls Government’s Labour Law?

The European Union’s “annual budgetary cycle” is made up of a European half-year and a national half-year. It is steered by the European Commission.

  • The European half-year begins in November. The European Commission publishes a series of papers (the November “package”).

An example: the November 2015 “package” encouraged all the member States to pursue the reforms of the labour market which must “guarantee, at one and the same time, flexibility and security” and incited the pursuing of “fiscal consolidation”.

  • In February every year , the Commission publishes detailed reports, country by country.

An example: the report from 26 February 2016 pointed out an “excessive” imbalance (too much public expenditure and a lack of competitiveness). However, the Commission recorded “substantial progress in the matter of reducing the cost of labour and retirement pension reform”.

  • In April, the member States of the euro zone are due to send their National Programme of Reform (NPR) to the European authorities.
  • In May, the Commission publishes its recommendations, detailed country by country, which the European Council adopts in June and July.
  • The national half-year begins at the end of the European half-year: the member States must then draw up their budget, taking into account the orientations of the European Union. They must turn in their “budget plan” for the next year by 15 October.

The Commission then gives its opinion before 30 November and, where required, its modifications. The member State draws up and transmits its Finance Law to the Commission before the end of the year.


How does this translate in France ?

  • On April 13, the Hollande-Valls government just adopted its National Programme of Reform (NPR).

It responds to the European demands for “facilitating, at the level of companies and branches, the derogations to general legal provisions”, or yet again, for “giving more latitude to companies, to adapt wages and working hours to their economic situation”.

In its paper, it lists what has already been done, such as “giving the possibility to companies of adjusting their organisation” (the Macron Law), or what is underway, such as “giving more leeway to company agreements through a reform of the Labour Code” or “edifying a new architecture for the labour Code” (the draft labour Law) but also, for what is to come: “Reducing the number of professional branches”.

The “personal activity account” (the CPA) is filed under the heading “Done/To Come”: “This is to be a universal package aimed at structuring, in one and the same tool, the individual rights that each and every working person may avail themselves of at their own initiative and they may keep, even when they change jobs”, confirms the NPR

  • The reform of unemployment insurance is also “To Come” – to respond to the European Council’s demand for “re-establishing budgetary sustainability”.