FRANCE

Angry French bosses take to the streets of Paris

CGPME president Jean-Francois Roubaud and Medef head Pierre Gattaz in 2013
CGPME president Jean-Francois Roubaud and Medef head Pierre Gattaz in 2013 Remy Gabalda, AFP | French business owners march in Paris, December 1, 2014.

Angry workers taking to the streets in mass protests are not an uncommon sight in France. But this week, it’s the turn of the bosses to brave the cold December air in indignation at “policies that have suffocated businesses for the last 30 years”.

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Around 4,000 employers marched in Paris, Marseille and Toulouse on Monday, according to police figures, kicking off a series of demonstrations calling for the deregulation of France’s economy.

Protesters in the French capital brandished signs saying “Free Our Businesses” and wore neon-yellow vests and construction helmets.

Organisers said 8,000 people had marched in coordinated rallies across the country.

It’s the first time French employers’ associations have taken their protests to the streets since the 35-hour working week was introduced in 2000.

Since then stringent employee regulations and ever-increasing employment taxes have, they say, hamstrung their enterprises.

“Business leaders are exasperated while their businesses are suffering in a very difficult economic situation,” said Jean-Eudes du Mesnil du Buisson, head of the CGPME association of small and medium-sized businesses.

Among their chief concerns are new compulsory payments covering severe working conditions such as night shifts – costing up to 600 euros per worker per year.

They are also complaining that they cannot legally employ hire part-timers for less than 24 hours a week, while new rules will force companies of less than 250 employees to inform their workers before they negotiate the sale of a business to new owners.

Three employers’ groups are involved in action that should last the whole week.

Only the CGPME has called on its members to protest in the streets.

Another group, the UPA artisans' union, plans to publish an open letter to French President François Hollande in around 60 newspapers, while the Medef, which has 750,000 member companies, plans a week of meetings and a social media campaign to highlight the concerns.

The CFE-CGC workers’ union blasted the protesting bosses on Monday, saying Hollande’s Socialist-government was already extending 41 million euros in tax breaks to business owners over the next three years.

“It makes no sense,” the CFE-CGC union said in a statement, calling on “a real tax reform for households.”
 

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