If you are following political developments in France a bit, you couldn’t have missed the recent waves of massive strikes and protests that hit the Hexagon. The cause is Hollande’s government push for “reforms” to the labour law. Obviously, the word reforms here stands for a range of measures in line with neoliberal tenets that take away rights from employees and give them to corporations. Namely, allowing less favourable local agreements on wages (to undermine collective bargaining of national trade unions) or making it easier to hire and fire staff. Crucially, the French government decide to invoke Article 49.3 of the Constitution that gives it the power to bypass parliament and impose reforms by decree. That way it also sidestepped critics in its own ranks, such as Parti socialist MP Laurent Baumel, who called the move ‘anti-democratic’ and labelled it as ‘a heavy-handed way of using the constitution to prevent the nation’s representatives from having their say.’
What is less apparent is that the French government’s attack on employee rights has a European dimension. Revealed recently by the association Corporate Europe Observatory, the European Commission is using all its new powers gained after the financial crisis of 2008 to move France in the direction of ‘liberalisation of labour code’. ‘Simply put, France has been required flat out to ensure higher profitability for businesses by driving down wages,’ say the authors of the study. For those interested in how the European Union stands on the side of austerity and neoliberalism, this is an interesting read that shouldn’t be missed.