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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Original French version, "Les tricheurs ne font pas recette"

by By Rosa Moussaoui and Marie-José Sirach

Cheaters are not Popular These Days

Translated by Henry Crapo

Translated Tuesday 4 April 2006, by Henry Crapo

First-job contracts (CPE): On the eve of the fifth day of mobilization of youth and workers, Nicolas Sarkozy takes over the management of the crisis, wanting to save his own contract creating insecurity.

Jacques Chirac has spoken. And it’s Nicolas Sarkozy who takes over. Dominique de Villepin retreats from centre-stage, for the moment, not for the sake of the Republic, but for maintaining presidential team. Since Friday evening, the affair has taken on another light, the President of the Republic promulgating a Law, while at the same time assigning to his political party, the UMP, the task of drafting a different Law.

This strange paradox has much to say about the real difficulties the government faces in order to achieve its goals. From a draft of the Law, passed by force thanks to the use of special procedure 49-3, we arrive at a Law coming from the UMP. Officially, the prime minister is not sanctioned. Unofficially, it is the UMP that takes over the job of crisis management. They pretend, on the Right, to have rediscovered the virtues of parliamentary debate and the necessity of dialogue with social partners (the unions, the students organizations and the Left opposition, Socialist and Communist). In the meantime, three million people have protested in the streets against the CPE (First-job contract).

Public opinion is not fooled

The latest polls (published in "le Parisien" last Sunday) show that the French are not fooled by political maneuvers taking place off-stage these recent days. Nearly 60% of those polled are convinced neither by the arguments nor by the explanations given by the Head of State for having promulgated the new Law. And 54% say they are prepared to continue the movement against the CPEs until the legislation is withdrawn.

These numbers are of no comfort for Nicolas Sarkozy, who is threading his way through a minefield. To say that he has little room to maneuver is to use a euphemism. It’s more like a touchy game of three-cushion billiards played by this declared presidential candidate. In recent days he has multiplied his appeals for compromise - even inviting, on the internet site for his party (UMP), signatures on a petition worded as follows: "The first-job contract (CPE) has as its objective the freeing from unemployment and insecurity those youths who follow the path from training periods to fixed-duration jobs to interim employment (...) This anti-insecurity is an entry ticket to the job market. It opens a faster and surer route toward stable employment. It provides new rights to training, to receiving unemployment benefits and access to housing." These are the words of a tight-rope walker in mid-rope.

No new text before the month of May!

While the so-called Law for Equal Opportunity, which contained the CPE, was published yesterday in the "Journal officiel" (the official publication of Laws and Regulations), the UMP and its various parliamentary coalitions have already begun working on the new Law that President Jacques Chirac is seeking. In theory, this procedure should permit them to gain some time without passing through the stages "Conseil d’Etat" and "Conseil des ministres", but Bernard Accoyer, President of the UMP group in the National Assembly, stated yesterday that the a new text would not be presnted before the beginning of May - after the mid-term school vacations and the parliamentary recess.

Basically, the UMP parliamentarians are supposed to support the "arrangements" already suggested by Dominique de Villepin, as repeated Friday evening by the President of the Republic: reduction of the "test period" for new empoyees (during which the employee may be laid off without prior notice) to one year, and the right of the young employee to be "informed" of the reasons for his eventual firing. Quite explicitly, the UMP deputy from Seine-et-Marne, Yves Jego, a close collaborateur of Nicolas Sarkozy, warns: "There is no question of reinventing the open contract CDI (contacts with no termination date, i.e., offering job security)".

We see the same line of argument by Bernard Accoyer, who wishes, after "preliminary contacts with union leaders", to meet with them right away, but on a well-demarcated terrain of "dialogue" agreed to by the UMP: "The objective of the CPEs is to find a way out of this special French situation that is the cause of our high level of unemployment, in particular for the youth: the whole network of laws involving firings and lay-offs." No question, therefore, of touching the heart of the CPEs by reintroducing a requirement for judges to pass on the motives for lay-offs of employees via the "prud’hommes" legal set-up (bipartite panels to mediate labor grievances). This was the position decided Saturday morning at the meeting between the Prime Minister and the leaders of the UMP. And it is perfectly coherent with the political line established last Monday by Nicolas Sarkozy at Douai, where he argued, in the name of flexibility, for "a simplification of labor law".

The MEDEF (employers’ union) wants a CNE (new job contract) for everyone

The Minister of the Interior - Sarkozy - while taking back the reins, is hoping to escape from a crisis that risks to permanently damage one of the essential propositions of his project for an ultra-liberal rupture: the creation of a single type of contract (CPE or CNE) for all workers. "It will be fairer", declares this declared presidential candidate. "No longer will there be first-class employees with unlimited contracts and second-class workers taking on a series of temporary jobs". For this, the president of the UMP is on the same wavelength as the president of the MEDEF, Laurence Parisot, whose criticisms are not against the nature of the CPE, but, as expected, on the strategy to adopt in order to be able to impose on French society a rewriting of labor law. For this "boss of bosses", in the interest of "fairness" we must insist on "flexibility" not just for "a specific category, the youth", but for all wage-earners.

After having played their cards for letting the situation get completely out of hand - going to hell - the Right and the MEDEF now play their cards to create confusion, and a strategy that is precisely aimed at digging deeper trenches between the youth and those already integrated into the the work force.

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