How do I..

… explain to my secretary that she should wear more suitable clothes.

I really am at a loss because women nowadays get so stroppy if you tell them what is suitable and what is not for the office and I feel that if I tell her to dress with more “dignity” she may resign and then sue me for “constructive dismissal”.

My secretary

Employment legislation is a real nightmare nowadays… as the French are no doubt finding out right at this moment.

It seems a previous government decreed that the maximum hours of work must, not should, be thirty-five hours a week.

But, with stiff competition for goods and services from India and the Far East, the country is feeling a very strong draught!. However, it is easier to give than it is to take. Especially with the French unions, which are the most powerful in the EU, ready to do battle.

I must admit, when they implemented this law I did feel at the time that it may end in tears. And if it hasn’t yet, it will. I must warn you that if, this summer, you are thinking of a motoring holiday in the EU, then take the ferry to Belgium and give France a miss. The first point of reference for the Unions will be the Channel Tunnel and the Channel Ports. As is always the case.

An extract from the BBC website states as follows

French MPs vote out 35-hour week

Dominique Barbet
– Chief economist, BNP Paribas

French national assembly

The government wants to ditch the Socialist legacy

French lawmakers have voted in favour of a controversial bill to increase the country’s 35-hour working week.

The proposal backed by a large majority allows private-sector employees to work up to 48 hours a week.

The vote followed weeks of protests from trade unions fearing the move may empower companies instead of unions to dictate working hours.

President Chirac’s government hopes the Senate will approve the bill next month, after which it would become law.

System revamp

Observers say the 370-180 vote underscores the government’s determination to revamp a system that it blames for a stubbornly high unemployment rate and rising labour costs.

French unemployment figures stand at about 10% of the work force amid complaints from private sector companies that the existing system makes them uncompetitive.

It means management will decide the working time, not the employees

Other than allowing people to work for up to 48 hours in a week – the EU approved maximum – the proposal also relaxes the overtime limit from 180 hours per year to 220.

Workers’ groups, however, are threatening further demonstrations over the plans, arguing that the proposal was the first step towards undermining a social security system consolidated by President Jacques Chirac’s socialist predecessor.

Trade unions are taking heart from a recent poll suggesting 69% of people were against longer working hours, correspondents say.

More than 300,000 people marched in protests at the weekend, according to an interior ministry count.

The full article is linked here

So, I will repeat, for all those travelling to France over the oncoming months, be very careful. There could be massive disruption throughout France.

Finally, why do the Unions immediately punish the British traveller whenever anything like this happens in France? Well, it’s not a “let’s bash the British” attitude alone!

It is because, whenever the French Government do something sensible, the French always know that this has been because of our influence in the “Les Anglais Common Sense” area so they quite wisely, blame us!


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