Only In France..."The Right To Disconnect"

Vowing to intensify their action to overturn an unpopular labor law, striking French union workers have already left hundreds of thousands of tourists stranded, gas stations empty, and nuclear power plants stretched. However, as low-skilled American workers fall foul of minimum wage blowback, the French parliament - despite Prime Minister Valls insistence that "France must show that it’s capable of reforming" - just passed new legislation making it illegal for your employer to send you an email outside of work hours.

As Valuewalk's Brendan Byrne reports, we’ve all been there, you’re heading to bed and see an email from your boss asking you for something, and have you noticed how it’s always urgent. You either do it, or pretend you didn’t see the email (not guilty), but either way your night has been ruined. You lie there thinking about it and how to deal with the situation. People are finding it more and more difficult to get away from digital connectivity, and we are seeing the rapid rise of mindfulness'.

Well this late night email situation can no longer happen with our French friends. Known for imposing the 37 hour week, truck drivers going on strike over literally anything, and general hard work, the French certainly are leading the charge for the much vaunted work life balance.

 

It has been termed ‘the right to disconnect‘, and was first tabled back in 2014.  Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly told the BBC earlier in May, “All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant. Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash— like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails — they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

 

Unfortunately for some, it is not a catchall law. There is a caveat, if the company has less than 50 employees, the new law does not apply.

 

One question the new law raises, is what about international firms with French employees. Can a US firm send an afternoon email to employees that will arrive after work hours for Jean-Louis, who is enjoying some cheese and fine wine in his local Parisian cafe?

 

The question remains how some of the world’s largest tech companies with offices in Paris but headquarters in California, such as Google and Facebook, will react to the news. The time difference between France and California is nine hours, which means all email from California will have to occur no later than 9am PST.

There is an increased awareness that our addiction to smartphones is affecting lives. South Korea, were the average person spends over four hours looking at phones and tablets per day, has introduced a ‘space-out’ competition were people sit in silence without looking for any digital stimulation.

The producitvity-sapping farce is completed as this legislation is ironically passed as French PM Valls said the government will not back down over labor reform, stating that "France must show that it’s capable of reforming." As MishTalk's Michael Shedlock explains - having been previously fined by the French for daring to speak the truth about French banking fragility - things are about to get worse in France...

Already hundreds of thousands of tourists in France have had planes delayed or canceled over French union strikes.

 

Gas stations are running out of gas thanks to a strike at refineries. Nuclear power plants have been hit as well.

 

French unions vow to increase strikes. They will target trains and buses next.

 

Please consider French Transport Strikes to Intensify as Valls Digs In on Law.

French unions seeking to overturn an unpopular labor law are set to intensify their protests as the government shows no sign of giving in after a week of strikes and blockades caused gas stations in many regions of the country to run dry.

By the end of this week, the national railroad, the Paris metro, ports and air traffic controllers will all be on strike, though the degree to which the actions will be followed is unclear.

After a week in which many French gas stations faced shortages and some protests turned violent, Prime Minister Manuel Valls in a series of weekend interviews said the government will not back down on the labor law or the contentious article 2 that lets companies negotiate labor contracts outside industry-wide accords.

“France must show that it’s capable of reforming,” Valls said in an interview with Journal du Dimanche on Sunday. Valls said he spoke by phone on Saturday with union leaders including with Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT, which has been leading the opposition to the labor law.

Trains, Planes

Four unions including the CGT have called for an unlimited strike at the national railroad SNCF starting Tuesday, the CGT has called for a stoppage at the RATP, which manages Paris’ metro and buses starting Thursday and the UNSA-INCA union of air traffic controllers has called for a strike June 3-5. The CGT has called for a 24-hour strike Thursday at France’s ports.

All the strikes are linked to labor disputes specific to those sectors, but are also aimed at forcing a withdrawal of the labor law. Another union, Force Ouvriere, has called for transport strikes to start June 10, the opening day of the European soccer championships that France is hosting.

According to a Ifop poll for Journal du Dimanche, 46 percent of the French want the law withdrawn, 40 percent want it modified, and only 13 percent want it to pass in its current form. The poll questioned 982 people on May 27 and 28. Meanwhile, Valls’s popularity in May fell six points to 24 percent, its lowest ever, a BVA poll said Saturday.

Unions, union rules, and French labor laws in general are literally strangling France, yet people still support those laws.

 

This is further escalation of my May 25 article, France Running Out of Gasoline; Strikes Now Spread to Nuclear Plants.

 

Carry on Dudes

 

Code du travail

 

 

By all means, carry on dudes. The massive “Code du Travail” (Labor Code) says you have rights.

 

“The Code du Travail is regarded by many in France as untouchable. Successive governments have chiselled away at its 10,000 articles – notably easing restrictions on layoffs and working hours – but without ever daring a comprehensive overhaul.”

 

PATCO Moment Needed

 

Ronald Reagan provided the precisely need solution for union insanity. Reagan fired them every PATCO (air traffic control union employee) who would not return to work when ordered.

 

I wrote about this once before, also in regards to France. Flashback October 12, 2010: French Unions On Strike Against Pension Reform, Disrupt Rail, Air Traffic.

The correct government response to this mess is to do what Reagan did to the PATCO workers, fire all the public union employees on strike and terminate their benefits.

Moreover, the French government should take this opportunity handed to them on a silver platter and go one step further to make a much needed change and dissolve all public unions. The same should happen in the US.

This would end the nonsense quickly and effectively. As in the US, there would be lines miles long to take those jobs at much lower wage and benefit levels.

Message From FDR

 

Inquiring minds are reading snips from a Letter from FDR Regarding Collective Bargaining of Public Unions written August 16, 1937.

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees.

A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.

FDR was correct.

As Shedlock concludes, Reagan was correct, but he did not go far enough. Reagan should have dissolved every public union.

Had he done so. We would not have the pension/state budget crisis we have today.