[Discussion] European Political Landscape

There are three elections occurring over the coming year that are of huge importance. They are:

Italian Constitutional Referendum - 04/12/16
French Presidential Election - 1st Round 23/04/17, 2nd Round 07/05/17
German Federal Election - 22/10/17

This thread is to discuss the political realities, results and fallout around these elections. The scope is broad but try to keep the post relevant to the elections referenced above.

Edit - Updated thread title

Here is your answer, Shadout

Instead, the real source of French union strength today is the statutory powers they enjoy as joint managers, along with business representatives, of the country’s health and social-security system, and as employee representatives in the workplace. Under French law, elected union delegates represent all employees, union members or not, in firms with over 50 staff on both works councils and separate health-and-safety councils. These must be consulted regularly by bosses on a vast range of detailed managerial decisions. This gives trade unions a daily say in the running of companies across the private sector, which accounts for the real strength of their voice.
Some of these consultations are productive, and secure the defence of employees’ reasonable interests. But the works councils’ remit ranges unusually wide. Managers must consult health-and-safety councils over such matters as the reorganisation of office furniture, for example, in order to prevent stress. The lay-off of more than ten employees must be negotiated with works councils under a tightly regulated “social plan”. Unlike in Germany, the relationship in France between managers and union delegates on works councils is often testy. The upshot, as a paper by economists at the London School of Economics pointed out, is that small French firms often choose not to hire more than 49 employees, in order to avoid having to deal with a works council. This brake on growth, as much as strikes or demos, is arguably the main effect of union power in France today.

Not sure how much it explains. Much of it doesn't seem significantly different than danish unions, well, except that it sounds like in France the whole framework is build into the laws, like at which size a company must have union representatives and such, while in Denmark, much of the framework itself is part of the collective bargaining between employees and employers, and thus maybe more moldable.

I get that by having foundation in the laws, it gives unions more power no matter their size. The framework cant be ignored by employers. They must have works councils and what not.
Still even the companies adhere to the framework of collective bargaining and representation, what prevents them from just not listening to what those tiny unions demand in the bargaining. Seems easy for the employers (and politicians in this case) to argue that the people they are negotiating with does not actually represent the workers.

Interesting maneuverer from Macron. We shall see how it plays out but Macron is apparently trying to ensure Trump isn't completely isolated and therefore only influenced by elements who don't exactly have Europe's interests at heart.

Worth watching closely.

I hope he does both. Invite Trump in, give him the show he wants, but then openly criticize him when he is trapped with you. Trying to be friendly with Trump only gets you so far, as it is clear from his White House of sycophants.
Especially when you are as far away as Macron. Trump changes opinions based on the person he last spoke to. That will rarely, if ever, be someone from Europe.

But what does that achieve, Shadout? On the other hand, if he can feed his ego and gain his trust he can open a direct channels to him. We are dealing with a child here and stooping to his level won't be good long term. I stand to be corrected but this is a long play as it appears that Trump is becoming more isolated in the White House and Macron could find himself with some influence. If he doesn't, no loss trying.

Axon wrote:

On the other hand, if he can feed his ego and gain his trust he can open a direct channels to him.

Doesn't seem possible.
Lying face down for Trump would be like doing so before Putin. Wont make him suddenly change course. If anything it might be seen as weakness.

Criticizing him sidelines the US, which might help internal critics of Trump in the US.

I dont mind Macron trying to talk to Trump. Just think he should be doing both at the same time. Show you are willing to talk, but that you are not a sycophant and will hit back when necessary.

You guys assume that they see the US as a superior power. That's no longer true. There's no shame in humoring an incompetent with rank. It occupies him while the adults work around him to get things moving again, without him for the most part.

From Macron's speech today for Bastille Day, there was a big part "oh and hey, thanks for finally intervening in the First World War, a hundred years ago."

Saw a 5 second snippet from the speech just now, something along the line of "President Trump being here now is a testament to our ever-lasting friendship". Maybe its a case of hearing what you want to hear, but I immediately thought sure, if your friendship can survive Trump, it can survive anything!

My parents kept saying that we're hosting the US, not one man, which I guess is fair. When I see how 45 spent the entire ceremony not even glancing at Melania... ugh. If she hadn't been there, it would've been the same to him. Was really glad Brigitte Macron held hands with her while their husbands conferred.

I'm curious, Eleima, how is this being received? Just back from a couple of weeks in Brittany and the general view seemed to be that it was a good thing. But to be fair few people wanted to get into to a nuanced political discussion on their holidays. And most French (and German or Dutch) were more interested in an Irishman's views on Brexit.

So, how is Macron faring? I assume this is to build political capital with the public before he starts into the harder reforms.

I'm not very much "in the know", since I haven't been listening to the news much lately (vacation). In my opinion, it doesn't go far enough. There was one specific point in the law which would have excluded anyone from public office if you had even a single mark on your criminal record (and that's one of the "engagements trahis" that's mentioned in the article).

All in all, he's doing okay so far, however. He did falter a bit after the general Pierre de Villiers resigned. They are calling it a "historical crisis" in the news, but I'm not seeing the fallout just yet.
He isn't popular with everyone, mind you. I took a look, now and then, at the Quotidien du Médecin, which is a paper written by and for doctors, and the base readership is rather firmly on the right, mroe to the right than Macron. I made the unfortunately mistake of commenting and reading the responses and I think I need an asbestos suit... They aren't too happy with promises regarding the healthcare system, there are a few budgetary cuts planned (budgetary cuts to the military are what led General de Villiers to resign).

So wait and see, I guess. We'll probably know more in September when things pick up again.

Thanks. Eleima. Missed the military spending issue. Won't be easy for Macron, that's for sure.

In other and far bigger news, the EU Commission has decided to threaten a Member State with the nuclear option. As I've stated before, I personally hate that it has come to this and that it will be exploited by Putin and his apologists but the EU must clearly stand for something. Rule of law and the values outlined in Article 2 ain't the worst hill to die on.

This must be a warning shot to Orban who is digging up some of Europe's past mistakes in order to aid his election. Coincidentally, it is bizarre that one country in particular sees very little concern in his actions. On one level I'm not all that surprised. Birds of a feather and all that.

I didn't know that the EU was giving them this ultimatum. It's kinda heartening because what I've been seeing coming out of Poland lately has been nothing short of appalling (in particular legislation around abortion).

So, the real fun begins for Macron. Eleima?

Reading that article it seems the changes seem pretty fair.

karmajay wrote:

Reading that article it seems the changes seem pretty fair.

sure but step back and consider the whole argument Macron and Pénicaud are making. This is a package of reforms designed to make labour cheaper (over the long term) for businesses and this is being presented as a way to help achieve a reduction in unemployment from 9 to 7.5%.

The problem here is that there is scant evidence that the cost of labour is the principle barrier for hiring in private enterprise. By and large businesses hire in response to increased demand. If there isn't more demand there is no point hiring regardless of how cheap the labour is. So if you don't increase demand in the economy businesses won't hire and will just pocket the difference of this new cheaper labour. And in turn you'll have little impact on the employment rate. Perhaps there are some downstream benefits to businesses having better margins but that isn't the argument being made here.

And when you make working people's employment more precarious (reducing their job security or reducing their ability to reason about their future earning capacity) then you encourage people to act more cautiously; saving and spending more thriftily. Every euro saved is a euro of less demand. And companies experiencing lower demand have little incentive to hire and in worst cases may have to lay people off.

Tl;dr: I hate the argument that is we just keep making labour cheaper that at some magical point companies will just hire everyone out of the goodness of their heart.

There was a study recently that showed the US has had stagnant real wages for almost 40 years. Don't join us in this insane anti-labor project.

From where I stand (and granted,by standing outside France, my view might be very invalid), France seems to be in dire need of labour reforms. Including making it easier to hire and fire.

Sounds like, if the linked article is to be taken at face value, Macron is also trying to allow companies to completely ignore the collective bargaining though, which seems bad (But then, I thought that was already the case in France?). On the other hand it seems like the french unions havent been very good at their job for a long while, so maybe some pressure on them can be healthy. But at least there should be some protection against individual companies forcing their workers to accept substantially worse conditions than what the collective bargaining has agreed on.
But if a company and its workers want to agree on somewhat better terms in one area, and somewhat worse terms in another area, that is very fair.

When it comes to labour laws, or any law, the important changes can be in the details, so hard to judge whether the mentioned changes are positive or not.

DanB wrote:

Tl;dr: I hate the argument that is we just keep making labour cheaper that at some magical point companies will just hire everyone out of the goodness of their heart.

True.
But I think there is a very substantial difference between labour being cheap in terms of wages, and labour being cheap in terms of hiring and firing.
If you allow companies to fire existing workers, so they can employ cheaper labour instead, that is bad.
But allowing companies to better hire and fire as needed in their production, but keep actual wages and working conditions at a reasonably high level, that seems good.
Trying to make it hard for companies to hire and fire, might be good for the people who happen to have a job right now, but not good for workers overall.
Of course, if you make it easier to hire and fire, you also ought to have good welfare programs for the people who might lose their jobs.

Shadout wrote:

True.
But I think there is a very substantial difference between labour being cheap in terms of wages, and labour being cheap in terms of hiring and firing.
If you allow companies to fire existing workers, so they can employ cheaper labour instead, that is bad.
But allowing companies to better hire and fire as needed in their production, but keep actual wages and working conditions at a reasonably high level, that seems good.
Trying to make it hard for companies to hire and fire, might be good for the people who happen to have a job right now, but not good for workers overall.
Of course, if you make it easier to hire and fire, you also ought to have good welfare programs for the people who might lose their jobs.

All reasonable points but there exists a myth that the employment market contains some unending supply of maximally hard working and maximally efficient workers. And if you give companies free reign to hire somehow all companies will simultaneously be able to converge on perfectly efficient work forces.

The reality is that the vast majority of people are kind of average. If you want full employment then companies have to accept that a lot of average and below average workers must be employed.

Hire and fire is not so much for replacing worse workers with better. If you have an actual bad employee, it will probably be worth to get rid of them no matter what.
But hiring someone new, hoping they are better than the other average worker you already have, would be a risky business regardless.

Think it is more important in terms of adapting your company to changes in demands, external shocks, requirements etc.
I mean, even if most workers might be fairly average, which is likely true, there is still a substantial difference if you have an average carpenter but what you need is an average bricklayer.
(which of course also means unions should fight for more and free skill training where relevant, but I assume french unions already do that)

Certainly easy hire/fire can also be taken too far in the opposite direction. Shouldn't be totally cost-free. But the article still mentions having to pay wages for 3-20 months after firing someone.

Shadout wrote:
DanB wrote:

Tl;dr: I hate the argument that is we just keep making labour cheaper that at some magical point companies will just hire everyone out of the goodness of their heart.

True.
But I think there is a very substantial difference between labour being cheap in terms of wages, and labour being cheap in terms of hiring and firing.
If you allow companies to fire existing workers, so they can employ cheaper labour instead, that is bad.
But allowing companies to better hire and fire as needed in their production, but keep actual wages and working conditions at a reasonably high level, that seems good.
Trying to make it hard for companies to hire and fire, might be good for the people who happen to have a job right now, but not good for workers overall.

I've had to help hire marketing staff for a previous employer's offices in France and Germany and the labor laws greatly complicated things.

As DanB said hiring is largely based on increased demand. But the flip-side of France's labor laws is that corporations have to wait until they're absolutely certain that demand is going to hold before they hire someone because it costs so much to fire them.

Practically speaking that meant we had to delay giving someone a good paying job in our Paris office for nearly a year because we had to show that our need for that employee was greater than the six month severance the company would have to pay if that demand slackened and we had to let the person go.

Our company had to muddle through a year where we could have marketed more and sold more software and France's economy missed out on someone extra having a good paying job for a year (and all the follow-on economic activity of implementing that software) because of their labor laws.

And those same labor laws meant we had to vet the sh*t out of any potential hire because once you pull the trigger you are pretty much stuck with them. That meant we were very conservative in who we hired, focusing primarily on people that went to certain schools and had very specific work experience. We couldn't take a chance hiring someone who didn't quite fit those criteria but had a great attitude.

There's got to be a point of compromise between how America treats labor and how France does. A point where companies can hire more--and fire more--but the end result will be more jobs.

Yeah, agreed. Great to get a view from an actual experience on the topic (since I have zero!).
How are German labour laws in comparison?

Whether Macron is getting the right balance is hard to say, but it sure seems worth taking the fight. French unions seems to have grown very protective and conservative.

Shadout wrote:

Yeah, agreed. Great to get a view from an actual experience on the topic (since I have zero!).
How are German labour laws in comparison?

It was years ago, but the biggest issue we had to deal with was firing an employee who simply wasn't cutting it. German labor laws heavily favors the employee, especially if they've worked for the company for years.

There are only a handful of legal reasons to fire an employee (I think we had to restructure the German office so that their position was officially deemed to be eliminated) and we had to give them written notice, in person, that they were going to be fired months before they actually were.

Again, those laws are designed to protect employees and they do. But they also make it a bit harder for employers.

I'm in a small German architecture office, and there's so much hiring/firing/quitting going on that I'm surprised we don't have a revolving door.

Obviously there is no union representing us, so that may make things easier on the employer, but there is a 2 month notice period (quitting or firing). It can be 3 months, depending on the contract. This period only comes into effect after the trial period, however. In my case, that was 3 months, but others have 6 months, and I've heard as much as one year. During the trial period, termination/quitting can occur with a 2 week notice.

Have overtime or vacation saved up? That can shorten that period.

The system is decent, I think. Two months gives both sides a good amount of time to wind down/transfer an employee's projects. The employer having to pay a fired employee's salary for 3 or more months....I've never heard of something like that and I'm not sure if that's good or bad in the overall scheme of things, tbh. More than 3 months definitely sounds excessive.

Two months notice to be fired? Ha! In the U.S. you might get two hours, if that. At the same time, you might give 1-2 weeks notice that you are quitting.

I haven't had time to look into the details of this new labor law, but what I do know is that most people aren't happy, and that unions are promising to strike.
So business as usual.

Eleima wrote:

I haven't had time to look into the details of this new labor law, but what I do know is that most people aren't happy, and that unions are promising to strike.
So business as usual. :)

vive la France!

Axon wrote:

So, the real fun begins for Macron. Eleima?

Okay, so I'm all caught up. Read both the above and this paper from the Economist. I'll admit that with my "move back in" phase, I've been totally disconnected from the news lately.

This is fascinating. FO and CFDT, some of the biggest unions (and FO being the most "extreme") won't take part in any strikes. That's pretty encouraging.
They're decreasing the cap for damages but increasing normal severance, which is reasonable.
I'll be interesting

DSGamer wrote:

There was a study recently that showed the US has had stagnant real wages for almost 40 years. Don't join us in this insane anti-labor project.

It's not the US he is copying but Germany. This is a problem that OG outlines very well that many European countries need to address. Also, don't forget that the European Charter of Fundamental Rights keeps a floor under all these practices.

LeapingGnome wrote:

Two months notice to be fired? Ha! In the U.S. you might get two hours, if that. At the same time, you might give 1-2 weeks notice that you are quitting.

I work for a large US multinational in their Dublin office. I'm amazed at what US employers get away with due to the amount of power they have. Thankfully I still remain under Irish law.