In France, Hol­lande Is Cowed by the Unions France’s job­less rate

La­bor ▶ La­bor ac­tivism un­der­mines huge and tiny en­ter­prises ▶ “They know the power they have left is to be dis­rup­tive”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Global Economics -

Fewer than 8 per­cent of French em­ploy­ees be­long to a union, com­pared with 25 per­cent in the U.K., 18 per­cent in Ger­many, and less than 11 per­cent in the U.S., data from the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment show. Yet French law re­quires any com­pany with more than 49 em­ploy­ees to have union rep­re­sen­ta­tives, even if no em­ployee is a mem­ber of a union.

Des­seilles Laces, a 126-yearold man­u­fac­turer in north­ern France whose cus­tomers in­clude Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret and Gucci, has be­come the most re­cent ex­am­ple of the power of the unions to un­set­tle even small en­ter­prises. Co-owner Michel Ber­rier says the com­pany may have to shut down af­ter a court ruled in a suit brought by the unions it had to re­in­state five work­ers laid off af­ter sales slumped in 2013. Only two of the com­pany’s 74 em­ploy­ees are union mem­bers, Ber­rier says. Union rep­re­sen­ta­tives did not re­turn calls for com­ment. The lace­maker, which had 2015 sales of €7 mil­lion ($7.7 mil­lion), says re­in­stat­ing the work­ers will cost it about €1 mil­lion. Liq­ui­da­tion would lead to the loss of all jobs at Des­seilles. The com­pany

4Q ’15

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