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Sarkozy says French firms should decide on 35-hour week

© Kenzo Trouillard, AFP | Nicolas Sarkozy, 60, wants another shot at the French presidency in 2017

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-09-30

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that French firms should be allowed to determine their employees’ working hours, in the latest swipe at the ruling Socialists’ cherished 35-hour week.

Sarkozy, who has rebranded his opposition conservative party Les Républicains, told financial Les Echos that every French business should be allowed to decide for itself if it wants to keep or scrap the 35-hour norm.

The decision should be made in each firm through negotiations between employers and unions, or, if they fail, by a vote among staff, he said.

Sarkozy, who wants his party to pick him again as their candidate for the 2017 presidential election, said the French economy "is asphyxiated by all the measures taken since 2012", the year he lost the presidency to Socialist François Hollande.

He is now advocating labour reforms that would go further than those he made during his first term, when he took steps such as reducing taxes on pay for overtime work to circumvent the 35-hour week.

"I think the French are more ready now to understand what's at stake, because they are so anxious about the economic dead-end France is in," he told Les Echos.

Sarkozy however did not go as far as his former prime minister François Fillon, who is viewed as more economically liberal and wants to scrap the 35-hour work week altogether.

Profile: Emmanuel Macron

Conservatives are not the only ones taking aim at the weekly norm, which was introduced by another Socialist government in 2000, at a time of economic expansion.

Outspoken Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has come under fire from within the ruling Socialist Party for suggesting the 35-hour week, introduced by a Socialist government in 2000, was a mistake.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said earlier this month he wanted to simplify the country's over-complex labour laws, but would not scrap the 35-hour week.

Opinion polls suggest the French are divided on the issue. A Viavoice survey said earlier this month that 52 percent of French favour keeping the 35-hour week, while a CSA opinion poll carried out days later said 71 percent were in favour of letting companies and staff decide on how many hours they work.

Studies have also shown that most French employees work more than the legal requirement, averaging 39.5 hours per week.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2015-09-30

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