'Hot Autumn' tests Juppe's will to fight

Today's one-day strike by public employees in France may have momentous consequences for French foreign and economic policy. If the embattled Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, fails to beat off the growing challenge from the public sector unions, international markets may judge that his government lacks the determination for the stringent economic policies needed to ensure that France qualifies for a single European currency in 1999.

That in turn could delay or even bury monetary union, a project on which the bulk of the French political elite has set its heart, especially since Germany's unification in 1990. "It is now crucial that the government faces down the unions in what is increasingly looking like a 'hot autumn' on the industrial relations front. We are somewhat sceptical about the government's stomach for a fight," said David McWilliams, an analyst at UBS Global Research in London. The franc and the French stock market have fallen since Mr Juppe forced the tough-talking Finance Minister, Alain Madelin, to resign in August after he urged cuts in civil service jobs.

Other experts warn that France's political establishment views European monetary union as so vital to the national interest that the government is unlikely to cave in to the unions. They believe the government will make every effort to meet the Maastricht treaty targets for joining a single currency, even at the cost of an unemployment rate around the present level of 11.5 per cent.

The strikers want the government to reverse a public sector pay freeze announced for next year. The freeze is part of an economic programme designed to reduce France's budget deficit from 5 per cent of gross domestic product to the 3 per cent needed to meet the Maastricht targets. Government officials say some employees will get a pay rise next year because of wage accords in the pipeline. But in a sign that public opinion is not solidly behind Mr Juppe, a survey published in Le Figaro suggested that 47 per cent of French people approved of the strike. Only 48 per cent disapproved.

Union leaders say the public appreciates their argument that they are being made scapegoats for France's economic problems. The Civil Service Minister, Jean Puech, responds that the government cannot afford extra pay rises in 1996, but is willing to negotiate increases in a deal covering the next two or three years.

From the government's viewpoint, today's strike may be a harbinger of worse to come. Union leaders have warned that they will not tamely accept Mr Juppe's plan for the complete elimination in two years of the state's Fr68bn (pounds 8.6bn) welfare system deficit. The Prime Minister has not yet explained how he proposes to wipe out the deficit, another factor prompting market scepticism about the government's policies. Mr Juppe is struggling to hold this year's overall deficit to Fr320bn (pounds 40bn) and cut the 1996 shortfall to Fr290bn (pounds 37.6bn).

A study released yesterday said that Mr Juppe's budget, which raises tax revenue but allows a 1.8 per cent increase in spending, was not likely to bring the deficit as a proportion of GDP down to 4 per cent next year, as the government projected. The figure is likely to be about 4.5 per cent, according to the French Observatory of Economic Performance, though it said unemployment was expected to continue its fall.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says state workers in France made up 25 per cent of the workforce in 1993, compared with 14.5 per cent in the United States.

French state sector workers

Education service 1,000,000 Hospital service 830,000 Post Office, France Telecom 500,000 Military personnel 300,000 Finance Ministry staff 200,000 Policemen 130,000

Other Central and local govt 2,000,000 Total number of fonctionnaires 5,000,000

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence