Étudiants Amers (Bitter Students)

More riots in France – what could it be this time? What is this CPE thing? Why are they rioting about a law designed to HELP the students find jobs? These are the questions I get from my American friends. … Because the media in the USA really doesn’t dig very deep. They don’t have the staff to do that anymore thanks to job cuts; and corporate interests who now own all the major media outlets are frankly are not served by digging into this one very deeply. Best to keep focused on ‘hooligans’ (the new favorite translation of a French term by American papers) rather than on the WHY.

Well Americans lemme try to ‘splain it to ya – Basically in France right now (and in most of the CIVILIZED world) you can’t fire people without justification like you can in the USA. To fire you an employer has to have what is called a REASON in HELL. Like you are not doing your job, and keep not doing your job. Then you can be fired.

In the USA only CEOs get such protection from being fired for doing a shitty job (hell they are much worse, as they are often rewarded for poor performance in ‘golden parachute’ clauses which even the French labor laws are not close to emulating). Labor unions in the US come closest to having the protection that ALL workers in France get (plus France has labor unions too to watch out for specific industries). Even short term workers (seasonal workers for example that are ski instructors in winter) have contracts that specify what is to be done in the job and the terms for being let go from even these jobs are strict.

If you want to lay someone off in France, there is a lot more money you are required to pay them and a period of warning they have to get. Workers have more protection here. But also to quit a job yourself, you must give the office 2 months notice so they have a chance to find someone to replace you. Personally I don’t think it’s a bad thing and leads to more stable businesses. Sure, you find lots of complaints from giant corporations on the internet about this. Tough titties – they are only whining because they can’t rape the workers as they are used to doing in the US.

Oh, and did I mention the French have national health care. Oh and did I mention it WORKS and people come from the UK to experience the good care here? Yeah, France isn’t number 1 but it is a solid productive country with labor laws that protect the interest of human beings. Who’da thunk it was possible? In Bush’s brain this combination should lead to total loss of all jobs and industry – but it doesn’t. France plods on pretty well. And I think the Euro is right now worth more than the dollar so think about that one Mr Trade Deficit and National Debt.

Well after the riots and car burning last summer about youth unemployment and racist employment policies, my guess is that the right wing politicians here saw their opportunity to frighten the French public into getting rid of some of their rights in the workplace in the name of ‘more jobs for youth’. The thing they are trying to sell is that for your first job after college, in the first 2 years, the employees could be fired ‘at will’ like in the USA with no explanation required. It’s based on age, and a ‘student’ age for this ‘jobs for youth initiative’ is 26 (kinda old in my opinion … ).

Both students and the existing work force realize what a farce this will be given the rest of the French economy. Why?

1. Students will be hired, then fired within the first 2 years by companies to avoid having to pay for pensions etc. as they do for longer term workers and replaced by the next crop of students.

2. Everyone realizes that over time, this will replace the steady workforce as ‘the’ workforce (all two year ‘fire at will’ contracts) so this will just in many positions be a rotating slew of young workers, replaced every 2 years. To ‘compete’ they will likely try to say ‘well Mr 30 year old, if you want this job, I think you must also sign a contract just like this 25 year old has done and then maybe I can give you this job … ‘

I saw this in Chicago at the Tribune for example during my 12 years as a photographer in Chicago. College photographers and reporters would go on 1 year ‘internships’ for low pay. The idea was supposedly that after 1 year if you were really good they would keep you on. But the reality was that after 1 year they would replace you with another cheap intern no matter how good you were. In 7 years that I paid attention, the Tribune didn’t hire 1 single new full time reporter or photographer and continually used interns, thus avoiding paying any pensions etc.. This was bad for everyone (including the public who then never had experienced reporters asking the ‘tough’ questions that only experienced people can come up with on news stories etc.) except the Tribune CEOs and upper managers, who of course got richer.

3. There is an idea that also this is being done to get the youth ‘used to’ the idea of being fired ‘at will’, and the guess is that in future they will try to extend this practice further and further into the workforce in the name of ‘progress’ and it won’t be for your ‘first’ job but for ‘any’ job in future.

Personally I am behind the students in this case. I hate big companies and am sick and tired of them being able to take advantage of the workforce. All over Europe workers are more protected than in the USA from being fired for no just cause, and I think that this mix makes it much more human to work here, than in the USA and also makes better managers – to be honest they cannot rule by fear as they do in the US, they rule by motivation of workers, and in the end I think that this produces a more stable happy workforce and better quality product.

Goods might cost more, but they last longer. So, personally I (and many Europeans) will buy European made goods, even though they cost a bit more because they last a lot longer than the shit we get from China produced by slave labor that falls apart in 2 days. The right wing all over Europe are trying to erode these worker rights, and also are trying to ‘reform’ health care here by privatizing it and making it more American – I just don’t see any of this as progress for humanity.

I just hope that the French student’s spirit spreads around the world – there have not been this many student riots in France since 1968 and right about now we could use some more social protest like in the ‘good old days’ to take back human rights under law, especially in nations like the USA which have recently had bloodless coups take over what ostensibly is a ‘democracy’ and turn it into a dictatorial farce that is one of the scariest regimes the world has seen in many years. Bad for humans, humanity, morality, the environment, trade, economy of the USA – unless you are a friend of Bush (and hopefully one with lots of oil) you are basically fucked in his regime.

Anyhow, that’s my take on it. I am sure that is not how this French riots issue is represented in the US. I also know that many would vehemently would disagree with about every word I have said here as this is not ‘pure capitalism’ but personally I find pure capitalism to be immoral, inhuman and useless for society and the environmental health of our planet (see Global Warming ) in the long term and think if there are not ground rules that force companies to treat the workers with some respect, you get what happened at my company just last week – perfectly good people laid off for no good reason just because they think we are all like gears in a machine instead of people with talents that can’t be represented in 1s and 0s. 40% of the work force laid off to be replaced by Indians with less training and education and experience in our product. How is this good for the customers? How is this good for the workers? Who is it good for – well the CEO, some cronies and I am sure a few giant stock holders (oh wait, those are all 1 in the same…) and sure, yes some 2nd world Indians will get a step up the ladder (at least this is not child labor in a Nike factory).

In my opinion companies should of course be able to make a profit but do they need to make an obscene profit and at the expense of lack of job security for the average worker or in 3rd world countries as the expense of slave labor or child labor? I just don’t think so. I think some morals have to come into it, because money is not God. Why did these layoffs occur in my office – well apparently our company ‘only’ made 185 million last quarter, which was below analyst expectations. Wall Street analysts should be fucked up the ass with a splintered pole in my opinion. But then I am just bitter; amer amer americane ain’t I?

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