French press review 26 January 2016


The French government's plan for a new labour law was on the front pages of Tuesday's newspapers, following the publication of a report headed by one of France's former justice ministers. As expected, France's main news outlets each had a very different take on the report's key recommendations.


Emotions are already running high ahead of France's plan for labour law reform.

The new bill is expected to create more space for direct agreements between companies and their employees, whilst curbing the role of the state on labour rules.

Yesterday a committee handed in a much-awaited report underlying 61 essential principles that should remain in the new legislation. It is now up to the government to decide what role the state will play in labour negotiations.

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Unsurprisingly, the conservative paper Le Figaro has a rather positive take on the planned legislation.

An opinion pole commissioned by Le Figaro points to the perceived complexity of the current Code du travail, or French labour code.

It shows that 85 per cent of French people consider it too complicated, 76 per cent think it's incomprehensible and 63 per cent say it is an obstacle to job-creation.

Le Figaro is definitely keen to point out the growing demand for a new, simpler, labour code.

Its editorial praises the shift in public opinion, calling the current legislation "Kafkaesque", and insists it goes against the country's economic survival instinct.

For a different take, left-wing Libération says yesterday's report will open the door to a regressive reform, which could be the end of France's 35-hour workweek.

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The paper points out that the concept of a "legal working time" could be replaced by that of a "normal working time", which could allow companies to redefine their minimum working hours, beyond which employees are entitled to compensation.

Libération insists that as things stand, the next labour code will inevitably be a blow to workers' rights in France.

In La Croix's editorial, the whole idea of a 35-hour workweek is compared to an irritating piece of cellar tape, which successive French governments just can't seem get rid of.

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Its headline, "The never-ending 35 hours", says it all.

But La Croix adopts a more moderate stance, warning that France shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The paper underlines the many benefits of the 35-hour workweek, such as the wage agreements that accompany the norm.

And we finish off with today's strikes.

The Communist Party paper L'Humanité emphasises the growing discontent among France's civil servants

The paper illustrates the drop in their purchasing power with a computer graphic and argues that wages have stagnated in the public sector in the last five years.

L'Humanité says the demonstrations which are set to take place across the country will enable unions to put pressure on the government ahead of negotiations.

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