It was held up as a model for stimulating the job market, but now France’s 35-hour working week is being re-examined by the country’s right-wing government. A debate has begun in parliament on a law change that would relax the rules and give employees the right to work longer hours if they want to. The 35-hour-week was brought in by the previous socialist government, with the aim of creating more jobs. There has been fierce debate, however, about whether that has actually happened, and employers’ groups have called for more flexibility.
The socialists and unions are vowing to fight any change to the law. “It is really getting close to a swindle when the expression ‘the choice of the worker is used’,” said Jean Christophe Le Duigou from the CGT union. “Employees who end up refusing to do extra hours, on top of the legal quota… I wouldn’t bet on them staying in the company for very long.”
There seems to be mixed opinions on whether the public actually want to work longer. One recent poll said 74 percent wanted to stick to the current system, while another said 53 percent of professional workers were keen to do overtime. Some unions have organised their own ballots among staff, not satisfied with some companies claim that employees are in favour of longer working weeks.