French Socialists promise dialogue at social summit
France’s new Socialist government is hoping to bring back a “culture of negotiation”, according to President François Hollande. A "social dialogue" meeting this week was generally well received by businesses and unions but civil servants, who face cuts, were disappointed.
“We are at the beginning of a new page; this is a start that is very much different from before,” said Bernard Thibault, the head of the largest union federation, the CGT.
Dialogue has been absent over the past five years under right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy, he added. However he felt that public-sector workers' concerns had been met with silence.
“I believe this is a good start to what we have been waiting for," said François Chérèque, of the less militant CFDT federation. "The results were not entirely satisfactory on many issues. Nonetheless, the essentials are satisfactory”.
Bosses' union Medef welcomed the method of "consultation and exchange" but claimed that Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's projects "don't take account of the economic reality facing businesses".
Jean-François Copé, the secretary general of Sarkozy's UMP, dismissed the conference as "cinema”, claiming that decisions taken so far will reduce purchasing power and make French businesses less competitive.
Ayrault ended the meeting on Tuesday evening with six key points the government will focus on:
In contrast to Sarkozy, who wanted to introduce a "golden rule" of balancing the state's budget, Hollande proposed that "social dialogue" be inscribed in the French constitution.