CPE and labour contracts in France

Renault workers

This is a short overview of the CPE law, by Ni Patrie, Ni Frontier, serving as an introduction to the following articles focussing on the struggles that this law ignited.

1) What is this new law about youth employment called and what it is about?
The Contrat Première Embauche is a new contract voted in by the Parliament. It enables bosses to hire people under 26 for 2 years and during this period they can fire them without giving them any reason. In other terms it’s a first breach against the Labour Code. In France there are many kinds of contracts but the model, the norm, the ideal contract is called a CDI (Contrat à durée indéterminée, Undetermined length contract). During the last 30 years, the number of people enjoying a CDI has progressively diminished. In fact the people between 30 and 50 are the ones who 'benefit' from these contracts. Under 30, they have all sorts of temporary contracts justified by the difficulties of their 'insertion in the labour market'. After 50 (years old) the mass of those who have temporary contracts are those who have been collectively sacked from companies which are bankrupt, externalize their production, merge and downsize their staff, etc.

To be accurate, you can find on the same work place:

• CDI de chantier (ie your contract is linked to a project which can last from 6 months up to 3 or 5 years; when it’s over the boss can fire you or transform the CDI de chantier in a normal CDI)
• CDD contrat à durée déterminée (ie your contract has a fixed duration from 3 months to one or two years which can be renewed no more than twice)
• Interim (ie you’re hired by a temp agency to work in another place)
• Stagiaire (ie you are not paid or low paid for a 3 or 6 months period (mainly for students finishing their university course)
• Alternance (ie you go on studying part time and work the other time; mainly spread among technical studies from Baccalauréat professionnel (exam at the end of a professional secondary school) to BTS (two-year diploma of the Universitary Institutes of Technology), better paid and aside benefits)
• Subsidised contracts (ie low paid but State funds a part of the wage)
• Free lance (mainly in “intellectual work” but also has high qualified worker on construction site)

As Mouvement Communiste wrote in a leaflet (see later): 'Precarity is now very common in the job market. The workers who had a CDI and were sacked during the last years have experienced it. In January 2006 alone, 16,000 employees with a CDI have been sacked for economic reasons and 53,600 for other reasons. Unemployment lasts at least 12 months, as an average. 'Official' precarity represents 14 % of the jobs if you count interim, state-funded jobs and CDD (short term contracts).

At the beginning of 2006, 471,256 people were following some form of professional training (called 'dispositifs d'insertion ') and 624,500 had 'alternance' contracts (combining work and studies).

• In 2002, 16 % of the State employees had short term contracts, i.e. 860, 000 persons.
• At the end of January 2006, the number of people working for temp agencies (intérim) was 624,500.
• Around 70 % of those who are less than 25 years old and have a job have a CDD (short term contract).

2) What are the differences between this new law and the old one they had tried to pass in 1994 and which had was confronted with demonstrations and riots?
35 different measures have been taken concerning youth unemployment during the last 30 years.

The CIP was presented by Prime minister Balladur in 1994. It was aimed at young people under 26 who had a 'baccalauréat ' (end of the high school exam) or a two-year university diploma and had difficulties finding a job. The bosses were allowed to pay 20 % less than the minimum wage if the employees had a baccaulauréat or a 2-year university diploma, or even more than 20% of the minimum wage if the young employeees had no diploma at all.

Recently the governement has passed 2 new laws concerning the CPE (First Job contract) and the CNE (New Job contract). The CPE concerns the companies which have more than 20 employees, the CNE, the companies who have less than 20 employees. The CPE concerns people who are less than 26 and the CNE all wage earners. During the first 2 years those who have a CPE and a CNE can be fired very easily. The companies who hire people with a CNE or CPE wont pay taxes for 3 years. The training periods more than to 3 months will be payed a minimum of 360 euros (this is a fraud, as most young people who do a training period in a company work for less than 3 months… and for free).

Untill the CPE and CNE the law was rather vague about the 'trial period' (the period during which you are tested by your employer and you dont know if you’ll get the job). By extending the trial period to 24 months the government gives a lethal legal tool to the bosses. The CPE is clearly a way of installing the youth in precarity, both inside the company (to accept the bosses discipline, not to strike, to accept dangerous working conditions, to work very quick, etc.) and outside the company (it will be difficult during 2 years to leave his/her parents, probably impossible to rent a room or a flat, etc).

[prol-position news #7 | 11/2006]