French drivers face the sack
One of the country’s most respected commentators on Russia, the EU and the US, Mary Dejevsky has worked as a foreign correspondent all over the world, including Washington, Paris and Moscow. She is now the chief editorial writer and a columnist at The Independent and regularly appears on radio and television. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham.
Tuesday 03 December 1996
For some, the victory may have been Pyrrhic. Officials of one of the larger unions involved reported a spate of sackings of drivers on their first day back at work.
The government, meanwhile, was preserving a coolly diplomatic front. The transport minister, Bernard Pons, said every- one had come out of the dispute "with their dignity intact". The next stage should be completed today, when union negotiators meet government officials to decide a decree on hours.
The unions had an interest in declaring a "total victory" to end the protest cleanly, before the weather or fatigue did it for them.
The government also had an interest in allowing the unions to claim victory to ensure the roads reopened.
However, there is a real sanction. Employers may receive subsidies from the government, but they are not the state sector with bottomless pockets: some firms will shed jobs ; others will go out of business.
The CFDT was sanguine about likely job losses yesterday, saying the haulage sector in France was "oversupplied", that "thousands of companies" went out of business every year, and that companies which observed agreed terms and conditions would be "happy" with the settlement because it would make for "fairer competition".
The unions have chosen to "forget" that their call for higher pay was reduced to acceptance of a one-off "bonus" of 3,000 francs (pounds 355), and that any working hours decree is unlikely to go beyond the EU directive on a maximum 48-hour working week.
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