There are a few things that immediately spring to mind when you think of France: Paris, a certain kind of behaviour and strikes.
All three define crudely the world’s perception of not only French life, but French philosophy, French literature , and, bizarrely, French Business.
It goes without saying that the majority of leading French business is centred in Paris, like the UK’s, in London, and that that unique French behaviour has made it so that statutorily French men and women must only work up to 35 hours a week, while enjoying ludicrously beneficial packages from their employers.
…foreign enterprises investing in France are not quick to understand the social set up.
This outlook on life coupled with the active mentality to strike appears to the rest of the world like a very moral way of living: work doesn’t become the be all and end all of existence, you can have a family, and when the going gets tough you’re not scared of the company’s “employment terminated” stamp. It’s a rosy existence to many — too rosy to others: for while French businesses can best understand the arguments and potentially agree with them, foreign enterprises investing in France are not quick to understand the social set up.
One recent company that sought to remove itself of assets in France that were losing it $1billion, ArcelorMittal, has been a recent victim of not only French workers’ perseverance to protect jobs, but also the government’s to protect French life.
…when would you actually be willing to put yourself on the line to such an extent?
On the way to talks with Lakshmi Mittal, the largest shareholder of ArcelorMittal, the French President, François Hollande, told the press that Nationalisation was quite visibly on the table if he didn’t have an adequate response from Mittal. This brash tactic, no doubt, played well into the French population, but was an awful own goal to go in with.
Compare it to David Cameron’s insistence that his veto can and will be used in EU agreements; not only does this alienate others (especially companies), but it also undermines the threat itself. You don’t go about threatening nuclear war, if you’re never going to use it, or it makes the threat itself meaningless: when would you actually be willing to put yourself on the line to such an extent?
…it would certainly have a cumulative effect on other French men and women…
Nuclear war and Nationalisation may not go hand in hand, you may argue, but I do not see the sense in a threatening an action that would have a much worse impact on the aggressor than the target. The outcome of the first talks bore no mention of the N word, and instead extolled the virtues of cross border friendship and working with business to produce a satisfying result for all — an interesting turn around.
Whether this will hold is another matter. There are around 500 jobs to go at ArcelorMittal’s furnaces in Florange, and while this isn’t the biggest redundancy number, it would certainly have a cumulative effect on other French men and women who are recently redundant, unemployed or fed up with the waning influence of France herself.
…put away the baton…
To save itself, France must put away the baton (see La Marseillaise) and join in with the way the rest of the Western world operates, or show us a new approach. For a Socialist President, Mr Hollande has had nothing original to do or say: he must act quickly to save his presidency and country.