Nicholas Sarkozy, battling to regain popularity ahead of a coming presidential election, has been trying to convince union leaders to back controversial labour reforms. Unemployment will be a top campaign issue and Sarkozy is anxious to get a deal in place. He outlined specific measures aimed at getting young people into work.
“We have decided that there will be no burdens for young people working for small businesses. We have also decided on a new plan to train those people who are unemployed, and a long way from getting a job,” he said.
However, France’s powerful unions are in no mood to be rushed into reforms with an election just around the corner. They have their own proposals and seem set to drive a hard bargain.
CGT union leader Bernard Thibault said: “The French president is making the wrong analysis of the situation to justify — or try to justify — unemployment figures, that it would be the employees fault who would cost too much.”
Sarkozy — who has yet to announce his candidacy — is pushing for two key deals before next month; one on company working hours and the other on VAT.
Observers, however, say Sarkozy has a habit of hurrying into reforms and then watering them down later to avoid conflict with unions. Economists who say France desperately needs a shake-up fear this will happen again.