Macron launches sec­ond round of re­forms

OVER­HAUL: Ini­tia­tives in­clude changes to un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits sys­tem and in­crease in state-funded train­ing

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

PARIS: French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron launched round two of his am­bi­tious do­mes­tic re­form pro­gramme on Thurs­day, wel­com­ing busi­ness lead­ers and trade union­ists for talks about a highly sen­si­tive over­haul of un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits.

Fresh from push­ing through ma­jor changes to French labour law, the 39-year-old cen­trist has now turned to the next stage of the “trans­for­ma­tion” of the French so­cial model which he has promised.

This in­cludes ma­jor changes to France’s gen­er­ous un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits sys­tem, as well as large in­creases in state-funded train­ing aimed at help­ing the un­em­ployed back into the work­place.

Any change to so­cial se­cu­rity is con­tro­ver­sial in France and Macron is hop­ing to avoid an es­ca­la­tion in street protests against him which be­gan in early Septem­ber at the call of trade unions.

The head of the Com­mu­nist­backed CGT trade union, Philippe Mar­tinez, de­scribed his talks with Macron as “po­lite but firm” and said he would con­tinue to hold the pres­i­dent to ac­count.

Mar­tinez has been one of the most vo­cal crit­ics of Macron since his elec­tion in May and the CGT has spear­headed what has so far been a mostly in­ef­fec­tive round of strikes and demon­stra­tions to de­mand the gov­ern­ment change tack.

Macron in­tends to de­ploy the same play­book used to push through the labour law re­form: ne­go­ti­a­tions over the next few months cul­mi­nat­ing in a set of gov­ern­ment’s pro­pos­als.

“Ob­jec­tive: to in­vent new pro­tec­tions,” Macron tweeted.

But whereas his op­po­nents were pre­vi­ously di­vided — with the more mod­er­ate CFDT and FO unions back­ing talks, not protests — there are grow­ing signs that the labour move­ment is pre­par­ing to push back to­gether.

Macron vowed dur­ing cam­paign­ing to over­haul the un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits sys­tem to ex­tend it to self­em­ployed peo­ple and farm­ers who are cur­rently not cov­ered, as well as open­ing it up — un­der cer­tain con­di­tions — to peo­ple who quit their jobs.

But con­tro­ver­sially he also pro­posed that ben­e­fits claimants could only refuse one job lo­cally for which they were qual­i­fied. If they re­fused twice, they would lose their pay­outs or have to ac­cept a gov­ern­ment-ap­proved re-train­ing pro­gramme.

Funds set aside by the gov­ern­ment for train­ing are set to to­tal 15 bil­lion euros ($18 bil­lion) over the next five years for adult ed­u­ca­tion aimed at help­ing in­crease the skills of the job­less.


Fire dam­age is seen from the air in the Cof­fey Park neigh­bour­hood on Wed­nes­day in Santa Rosa, California.


Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron (L) looks on as he at­tends a meet­ing with Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral of the Gen­eral Confederation of Labour (CGT) French worker’s union Philippe Mar­tinez at The El­y­see Palace in Paris on Thurs­day.

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