French press review 9 July 2012
Something called a "social summit" opens here in France later this morning, with President François Hollande sitting down with trade union leaders and bosses' representatives to try and hammer out a rough global policy to cover the next five years. It's going to be a tough job.
The two days of discussion will, according to right-wing daily Le Figaro, be dominated by the spectre of unemployment, with nearly one quarter of a million added to the dole queues over the past year and no sign of an end to what we politely call industrial reorganisation.
Le Figaro lives up to its right-wing credentials by questioning the legitimacy of the workers' unions, pointing to the fact that they represent only eight per cent of French employees.
Worse, they are incapable of seeing beyond the ends of their own snotty little noses, defending their individual interests against any vision of the common good, the paper says. The same, give or take a snotty nose, could be said of the bosses, but that's a different story.
Le Figaro's other gripe has to do with urgency. François Hollande see this week's meeting as the start of a year-long consultation with various working groups to be given 12 months to come back with concrete proposals. But, says Le Figaro, the crisis won't wait. The working groups may well discover that the world they've been discussing collapsed completely while they were talking.
Business daily Les Echos is not expecting much to emerge from this week's talking shop, either. But that's simply because nobody expects any agreement to emerge over the next two days, it's just an attempt to hack out an agenda.
Public service reform, retirement age and the cost of labour are sufficiently thorny subjects to require a little more than two days to sort out.
Left-leaning Libération quotes Labour Minister, Michel Sapin as saying that the country needs a post-crisis social contract just like the post-war deal agreed in the late 1940s. But the bosses' boss, Laurence Parisot, says French industry can remain competitive only if those who run the businesses are allowed to reorganise and adjust.
Defending individual interests is a bad thing when it's done by the unions, but it's perfectly OK, even responsible, when it's done by the top dogs.