The head of France’s biggest moderate trade union, CFDT, said after talks with President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday that he had urged him not to try to hustle through his labour reform plans this summer. Macron’s encounter with unions and employers was a first crucial test of his commitment to carry out reforms in the labour sector which he sees as vital to reviving an economy bedevilled by high unemployment, but which are opposed on the Left. CFDT leader Laurent Berger, emerging from talks at the Elysee, told journalists he had urged the newly-elected Macron to leave more time for discussion and not to try to rush his reforms through by executive decree this summer – a strategy which Macron has suggested he might follow if he can. The centrist leader, elected earlier this month, wants to make hiring and firing easier by giving more powers to companies to reach in-house deals on working time for instance and capping severance packages awarded by industrial tribunals.
“I asked him not to do it (his reform package) hurriedly, to do it without rushing, that the idea should not be to wrap everything up by the end of summer, end of August,” he said. But speaking after his own meeting with Macron later on, the head of the more militant CGT union said the president seemed to be willing to take more time than initially planned. “The timetable seems to have changed,” Philippe Martinez told reporters.
“It seems to me that the short timeframe that was planned is not as short as I had understood,” the leader of the CGT, which led weeks of sometimes violent protests last year against reforms by former Socialist President Francois Hollande, added.
Against a background of high unemployment of 9.6 percent, the pro-business, Europe-minded Macron has made a loosening of labour market regulations his biggest economic priority in his first year in office.During the roller-coaster campaign, Macron said he would seek parliament’s approval over the summer for powers to push through legislation by means of executive decree.