What an American thinks of French unions!


I wonder will the French just shrug their shoulders at this ? I would agree with the author, until the French get rid of their archaic ways of doing business, their Unions and change their complete mind set --- then they will be left behind in the world of industry and technology .

I am all for work life balance --- but the French really seem to have made this into an art form ---- one which they would be very reluctant to give up!!!! ----- so where do they go from here???!!!!

He does indeed seem to have the political survival skills required for the corporate world Brian :-) Not long after I joined my company almost went down the tube so many prima donna ridged corporate types got pushed out and the can-do types that had been strangled by red tape got space to rebuild the company. If that hadn't happened I'm sure I would have moved on to more exciting challenges. I'd prefer to run with the risky project than the safe one but that's difficult after you reach a certain level. It's not only your job you're putting on the line but it can be hundreds of others.

I know John. I am not afraid of hard work, having probably done more than a fair share, but life came first and career second. It is once round only and I would do it again with very few tweaks, but what my son has done - never! I also think he is intellectually incredibly lazy. I know his head works day and night for the company, but within parameters only and also he gives whatever is at all risky to somebody less 'indispensable' who can carry the buck instead of him. I would never do that. In his case he has come out one of the most boring human beings I have ever met given he talks only about his work and only about family if asked, certainly other things need to be prised out of him if he knows them or cares at all. That is not, in my terms, a life. Perhaps I am simply of another generation with ideals and expectations that are not geared to work but to life.

Brian, That's just life in a US MNC. Company comes first if you want to succeed. One has to be available 24/7/365. There is no written rule but to be less dedicated is seen as disloyal. Lot's of talk about work life balance but in reality if you do want a balance you need to find a job elsewhere. I enjoyed working under pressure and don't regret for one moment the years I spent full on, the trick is to leave when one has had enough and do other stuff. Quite hard to let go though as I discovered.

Yep, must agree. My son left a German university, he being German anyway, walked into Allianz aged 24 years and (as I understand it) placed his degree in accountancy and business management on the personnel manager's desk and asked for a job. They more or less planned his career, even then, then shook hands and agreed he was hired. Now, 17 and a bit years on, aged 41 he is a very senior manager and still going up. His partner and children are well provided for but his career as a manager comes first. Before his family that is. He was one of the first of the generation now who walk into an employer's office and talk about their directorship. He believes he will have it before he is 48 and is ahead of schedule by perhaps two years. The problem is, that the modern attitude he represents is so much like the Bismarck period Junker mentality that he cannot see he is recreating and perpetuating and older social and economic structure that privileges a few and leaves the majority behind. Geritt misses the nuances of 'Germanic-ness' but also, as a reader of that article I see it happening everywhere, here too even. It is that which is stymieing change and keeping some practices in employment and everyday life as they were and that nobody wants to change because it reassures them they are where they belong. The ones who wish to simply become the top guns actually walk over them. In many respects the directorates and managements are all USA modelled whereas the workers still feel as they did 50 years ago but without the opportunities they had if they got a few basic qualifications. Put that in front of an 'American' entrepreneur and only the conservative, old style worker stands out and the 'modern' manager appears on his side.

Celeste, it is not as simple as Geritt is writing. But of what she is writing, you know it alredy, it is crafted out of the thoughts of what an American thinks of French unions!!!! It is greed and unwillingness to give your employees a fair share.
On the other hand, and this is what Geritt also doesn't write: those in this "precarious employment" have had before at least at least two years time to find a better paid job as they got 68% or 72% of their last Net-wage!.

and had all the time in the world to hunt for a suitable job.

Minimum wages are not a solution as well, simply because companies would not employ. In one year then also in Germany youth unemployment would rise like it did in most other countries. The entire educational system in Germany has been watered down by EU regulations because of all this MBA & Bac pseudo educations are merely a replacement of a proper Gymnasium L Lycee.

Even worse: Just 20 years ago, a young guy, leaving the elementary school could ask a company if he/she could learn a profession within this company. That "traing" took 3 years and he got ca 600 Euro per month for learning a craft properly. He was then what you call a "engineer", but in German terms he was a approved car mechanic. You must know in Germany a engineer is not fixing your car, he is designing your car. Fixing is done by the mechanic. This all is not happened anymore. People are loosing qualifications, want to be directors direct from the start. Thats the problem. And this is the way we all are going.

No. But when you ask people like my son who has had a career with Allianz at both HQ and now as one of his region's top executives and hear just how complacent and even lazy they are, simply totally loyal about saving the company cents in order to accumulate large bonuses, then you get a taste of how common many of these work place stories are. I find German shops no different to here, perhaps they are better at the range of stock but nothing else really. Industry is gradually moving abroad because not only is labour cheaper but the people work harder and so on. I love Germany, it is as much my 'home' as any country and certain where I have most real friends, but the FT report tells little of the whole. It is not the Germany I knew from 1970 on until reunification suddenly brought a new reality that it still not resolved. The real difference between the Germans and here is that (ask me to explain some other time) the French are rather like the famous lemmings jumping into the sea story and try to look like they are a creative, enterprising and individualistic society. Germans seem to many like the lemmings but under the surface they are subversively a creative, enterprising and individualistic society. In the wash they come out the same but vehemently deny that.

Interesting Theo- my great grandfather was Prussian! Maybe the persistence trait is coming from there!

The insurance was third party, fire and theft only as the car was not hugely valuable and is our second car, so no insurance claim was possible. This was confirmed in writing by the insurance company and a copy supplied to the mairie. My view is that I should not take a hit due to the negligence of the Mairie. The commune Secretary even admitted to me verbally that he knew the road to be defective, so just what does he do to earn his salary? This is in a nearby commune, nothing to do with mine, and I know none of the people concerned. Is one expected to forget it in France simply because they have casual practices, when one would I think expect a rather more efficient response? I don't like the concept that public service employees can be lax and get away with things, while the rest of us suffer and pay. If we allow them to do that then greater inefficiencies will arise. We are about to buy a more expensive second car which will be fully insured. Meanwhile i will continue in my claim.

He should have done. More fool him for believing the mairie would deal with it and even that the road gang would tell the maire in the first place! That is the kind of question I no longer ask. The whole thing about keeping things personal and local is a minefield in which I am not inclined to play, this whole business about knowing people actually reveals how well people do not really know each other.

Could he not have claimed on his insurance Brian and let them deal with the Mairie?

Yes, now I understand your motivation and of course, once a really serious accident happened the root cause gets into oblivion. So then a victim is quickly made the cause ...
Well, your right: persistence is the privilege of a "Boche". I was never good if someone wants do the "benevolence dance". Ultimately France is the land of farmers and lawyers, - those in between are only taxpayer. This idea of citoyen in the times of the New Real Feudalism in the bulwark of the Republic fonctionnaires is long gone...

Theo I know that if I were costing my time on the matter it would not be worth it. Even ten years ago I was charging £125 per hour plus expenses and getting it (much less than a lawyer even then!) but now I am a sad old git. As my own Maire said they must have insurance so why don't they just get on and pay the costs incurred? By the time we are all finished the 100 euro hole will cost a few thousand euros in time and other costs. I just don't think I should encourage them not to maintain their roads when they already knew it was defective. An inexperienced driver could have lost control of their vehicle or a little old lady could have been extremely inconvenienced at night. It sounds like you are very persistent but I think my case is below the avocat threshold.

David, Your pot hole is only drinking water. I would just pay the bill and not put up with all the frustrations to come... There is without doubt a very deep stubbornness in administrative decision-making process that can lead to greater financial losses than the actual damage. Without a legal expenses insurance many just stay in limbo. This tactic seems to be an deliberately attitude so people lose first any possibility to enforce their legal rights and then will have to swallow any decision that is made by a court. We have made the experience that it is only possible to successfully assert a claim as we transfered the mandate to a very expensive lawyer who is known for his commitment to the FN and also pushed him to make very clear that the case will be happily transfered to a higher EU-court. Finally because of contacting some colleagues in the French media (private PR networking) and other hassle it took the court "only" 3 years to come to the unavoidable conclusion which was clear from the out-set. It would be a mistake to assume that this is just crafted by local "fonctionnaires" like your Mairie,- often above all the root is this "Franco-Roman" jurisprudence, which paralyzes itself when a new Act is being slipped onto an already existing legislation. Perhaps at one point we will eventually talk about "liquid law"...

Oh dear! Unfortunately the hole in my road had not been drinking! I will keep you posted as to progress. Shall we have a sweepstake on the length of time it takes? I don't mind as I have thetime to carry on but it could be another year from here. The first event will be the Mediateur on 11 April. I am practicing my withering stare for the mediateur's secretary (who comes from the prefect's office) in the meantime. I have programmed in a courtesy (?) call to her on the eve to confirm for the third time this revised meeting.

Brian, you just jogged my memory about China, although I never got further than the old Hong Kong physically, we did get production of products for sale in Australia, before this became the 'norm' as it were. I clearly remember now that is was 1971 when the Company I was with tried to source suppliers there, and contacted the laughingly called 'Trade Secretary' or some such tosh in the Embassy. Without any trace of embarrassment he advised we speak to ' a chap called Alan Turner, who knows far more than me'. We automatically assumed he meant someone else in the Embassy, and were amazed to find ourselves talking to what were then known as 'Old China Hands' - Australian merchant adventurers I would call them, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the Embassy.

Alan was to become a good friend of mine over the years, but unfortunately died a few years ago. He used to crease me up with his pithy remarks about the 'tossers' (he actually used a far more Australian epithet) 'up there', who were a bunch of know-nothings who wanted to know nothing either. Nothing has changed much has it?

Hahaha. I know a certain ex-PM, known for his greyness, love of cricket and being very boring. All true. We went to the same grammar school and although he left the year I joined, we actually did meet up through the old boy network. He lives in Huntingdon where he was MP for years and I was in the adjoining constituency where there was a small 'branch' of the old boys' club. Until he became 'too important' he used to show his face there.

However, I remember him saying how much he loved both of the 'Yesses' and laughing talking about particular Sir Humphrey dialogues that he could repeat almost verbatim. He also thought that the civil service are not so far from the comedy version.

I have had UN longish contracts. Some obliged me to live in the diplomatic colonies. Three months in Beijing is probably the most exemplary. I was in and out because my work took me well beyond the capital. Nonetheless, I met people working for the UN whose only time out of the colony was between there and the airport in a staff car. One man had been there nearly a decade and whilst he analysed Chinese economic performance and spent a lot of time with Chinese economists, he had hardly ever been out of the colony and they came in. His UN staffer wife was much the same. Their children were at primary school in the colony, mainly being taught by Australian and English and would go to boarding school in New York when they reached secondary. Between them they knew no Chinese and nothing about life in China. They were international civil servants and it was the job that counted, not being in any particular place. They epitomised the collective international civil service mentality. People asked me about what it was like 'out there'? There was only expression of intrepidation, suspicion and fear of the outside. The British Embassy, where I had to go a couple of times to meet DfID reps, was like something out of a time warp. Getting in with longish hair in a ponytail and an earring despite showing my UN ID with my passport lead to me getting warnings about what might happen to me for my appearance, although nothing ever did other than people discuss inquisitively.

UKBA. Another farce. My Swiss OH came to the UK. When she got her Swiss government grant for three years she got a fellowship in Cambridge. She was never once asked any questions about anything.She simply came to the UK, we married and our first daughter was born. During that time we left the UK to go to Portugal for her fieldwork for a year. Her mother had given her her old Fiat UNO which had been driven to the UK, re-registered, had an MOT and so on and off we went with two cars. At the end of the year back we came, waved through and no problem. She got the job in Swansea a year later, we stayed there five years during which we travelled fairly often, regularly to Switzerland, Singapore, Thailand, Portugal and so on. Then we left the UK and came here, a convoy of the removal company and our two cars. On leaving somebody noticed she had a left hand drive car, asked how long it had been in the UK and where it was originally from, looked at the paperwork then asked for her passport. UKBA and customs were called into check that the car was in order because of the number of stolen cars... They checked her thoroughly, interviewed me and since I had our documents in a filing box in my car showed them our marriage certificate and both daughters' birth certificates which given the girls were travelling on Swiss passports upset them. Fortunately we were very early for the ferry. It took well over two hours of an UKBA jobsworth asking why she had never had any kind of official permission to stay in the UK. She was in the tax, social security and so on systems as somebody working in a university and if any kind of permission had been required one might have expected that to arise. Anyway, in the end we were allowed to go because no negative things appeared on their screen.

Once we arrived at a B&B for the night and had a laptop running, we looked to see what the Swiss are supposed to do, just for a laugh if anything. Lo and behold, there is no need to declare or register themselves, have residence or work permissions and no actual reason for the palaver in Poole Harbour.

On her fairly regular visits back to the UK where she was a fellow of a centre in Swansea until last summer and Cambridge where she is still a research associate, neither Cardiff nor Stansted airports has done more than look at her picture and wave her through. What the hell was the Poole UKBA man up to then? Was it just boredom and needing a victim for amusement or ignorance? Whatever. Sure we moan about French bureaucracy but neither of us find them any worse than the UK. They are equally 'lazy' and reluctant to use their legs for such menial tasks as walking to the desk to deal with enquiries or opening a filing cabinet and each one has a different answer to the same question which, once one checks, very often turns out only half right at best and totally wrong too often. As yet I would like to discover a country without too many where the civil and public services do not claim that they are entirely understaffed. I reckon Jonathan Lynne was actually far closer to the truth than he would admit without falling foul of the BBC in reality.

No, happens to the French too. The communal road repair team popped into somebody's house for lunch. The driver of the truck forgot his handbrake which then rolled. It hit the side of a neighbour's car. He had profuse apologies and a promise the people would tell the mairie. He went up to the mairie on the first opportunity, it only being open one and a half days each week, to make a claim. They knew nothing about it. The road gang had not reported it. He had taken a couple of shots on his phone and there and then put them on the mairie computer. They said it would be dealt with.

A while later he bumped into the then maire and asked. He knew nothing about the claim. Because he had forked out a large amount of money for both doors and the frame to be fixed he expected it paid for. The road gang, despite the photographs, denied it was them. Now this is a man who says he knows four generations before him were here, probably more, and his wife's family have 'always' been here. So hardly strangers. Having been in business he has a lawyer who took it on. The Mediateur has told him that it is now in hand but if the mairie wants to oppose it, then it will take several years through a court.

In fact, he had to change car because the structural damage to the frame was too bad for it to be completely repaired and had become potentially dangerous. So, he has his bill to recompense, plus the estimated loss in value of a then three year old 4x4 which he had to replace and whilst he is not saying how much his claim is we can only surmise it is a lot. This is a small and not well off commune. The present maire who took over since is saying to pay the claim will break the commune and the new communauté des communes that came into effect at the start of the year must pay. However, because of the regrouping and although this commune is still much as it was, they are saying it was the business of the old one. They had placed responsibility back in this commune. In the interim, the same road gang have had their truck run into the side of a house and knock down part of the courtyard wall and damage the roadside wall of the house. Again much the same story starting with their apology for the handbrake left off. This time the wealthy Dutch house owner called the gendarmes because the driver stank of wine, so the thing has gone directly to a court who have had an assessor out to see what the value of the damage is. Guess who will get paid out first?

Jonathan Lynne - one of the co-writers of the series was apparently a former civil servant, and always said the books were thinly-veiled truths.

I have the two books of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, and when the words are in front of you, it is very easy to relate them to any 'official' documentese.

I wonder if others who have spent time 'on the ground' in foreign countries have also seen the incredible ignorance of Diplomats about their countries of station? Cocooned in their cotton-wool Embassies, and being the original 'mushroom kids', who seem to be absolutely amazed every time a situation occurs (I do refer mainly to the Middle East in this regard).

Any and every expat. in the streets knew more than they ever do, but they are yet another symptom of civil service mentality in my experience. I had just one occasion to deal with them in a business sense, when I asked about a certain law/rule in the country and I was told 'We are not here to help British citizens, but to represent the Country'. Thanks very much? Who exactly pays their salaries?

These sorts of attitudes are entrenched in ALL Governments in ALL countries I would suggest, and just form part of the 'them and us, and never the twain shall meet' problems we all have, no matter where we come from.

It isn't just a French or British or even American thing in my experience, it's just part of the system which creates the mentality. Governments and Civil Servants of all stripes and colours have simply lost sight of what their jobs are really all about. In many ways the French description of 'functionaires' is more honest than most.

Nobody is denying we need these people (not all of them) what we need is a new (old?) mindset, as to why they sit in certain chairs and what their responsibilities should be, and not the old 'jobsworth' mentality that is so prevalent.

Obviously this is a blanket statement, and equally obviously there will be those who do the best they can under the systems, but 'rules is rules', and often in France at least, confusing to all concerned.

Someone mentioned the UK Border Agency. Many moons ago, some may recall that an official entry point to the UK was Brighton? Britain was in the EU, and I recall with astonishment as the clown at the desk, refused my French wife entry, and we couldn't figure out why. I was young, big and bolshie at the time, and could be incandescent, which I was. I was duly hauled off to an 'interview room' with three non-uniformed idiots, who were physically threatening - and I kid you not.

My wife was taken to another interview room, and in a short period of time, I was presented with a piece of paper to sign, on which I noted the phrase 'arrived in the UK with a young French lady'. When I pointed out that she was my legal wife, and although married in Australia, we were both EU citizens, an she had both French and British passports, there was a silence, and then without one word of apology, or explanation were told 'we could go' as if it were some great favour on their behalf!

Customs Officials are amongst the most cretinous of all Civil Servants in my books and I have never been to the USA where I am told they are even worse, but the British ones are easily the most offensive I have ever met, and that includes former Soviet ones, with whom I never had scrap of trouble other than their slowness.

Of course one speaks as one finds, and I am sure that others would rush to their defense, but these examples have powers above and beyond the police and are indeed the basis of a dictatorship in my view. The last thing they represent is any Democratic country.

But what can we the 'sheeple' do about it? Precisely nothing. It is almost certain that each and every day we transgress some archaic or unknown law or regulation. Now with every single move we make is, or can be, docuented recorded and used against us, we haven't got a hope in Hell.

We can rail against it,write letters, use blogs such as this, take up marches, vote UKip or any Political Party, but sorry folks it won't make a scrap of difference.

And wait until Sharia Law takes hold, and then it will get a whole lot worse. In one of the great ironies this will happen first in Belgium, home of the EU and EC, where Moslems now are 42% of the population (source Al-Jazeera) I will try and find the link if I can. In ten years or less it will become the first Islamic State of Europe. Now THAT will be something to see don't you think?

Small tale. Last April in a neighbouring commune on a communal not departmental road I was driving my wife's car perfectly legally when I unavoidably came across a large and deep pothole which immediately wrenched the tyre off the wheel and badly creased an alloy low profile wheel. Luckily it was daylight and I managed to change the wheel and drive on. I ordered a new wheel and two new tyres as there was some wear and the old pattern was no longer available. I took photographs, obtained a map and the next day visited the Mairie of the town concerned wher the male secretary verbally admitted liability and said that he knew wher the pothole was and would get it repaired as it was dangerous. That took place immediately. He said send him the bills etc. I had the work done and sent him the bill very promptly. I claimed only one wheel, one tyre and mounting which came to about five hundred euros. Since that time I have had no acknowledgment and no repayment. I have written about eight letters including by recorded delivery without response. I have sent several emails without response. I have visited the town hall twice without result but on one occasion the secretary told me that payment would be coming. I have telephoned several times and he was always out or busy and he never returned messages left. I warned them by recorded delivery that if I did not have a response within a reasonable specified period I would refer the matter to the Mediateur de la France. As there was no response I did refer the matter and I sent a package to the mediateur and by telephone arranged an appointment on 26 February to which I turned up on time last week after a one hour drive to get there. They denied all knowledge of the meeting and reluctantly gave me another rendezvous in April. they refused to stamp a piece of paper with the time of the meeting so when I eventually got home I rang them to confirm again and give me the time of the new meeting The frosty receptionist who refused to face me in the office gave me the time of the meeting again and I have since confirmed it by recorded delivery and by email neither of which have yet been acknowledged. By chance I visted my own mairie today where the Maire, who I know well, told me confientially that the Mediateur had telephoned him this week, after my abortive visit, to check on whether I was OK, or in some way a troublemake or persistent claimant. I have had a house in my village for 42 years and am on he committee of three local associations. The maire was able to confirm that I have no "form". I honestly believe that if the same thing had happened in the UK the local authority would have at least acknowledged my claim and informed me in writing what was happening. Here a stone wall seems to have gone up. Not sure if it's because I'm British, or because they think I will go away, or if, as I suspect it's rank incompetence. I know that without any doubt it's exceedingly impolite. I'm determined to get through their defences and get my money. On a different matter 20 years ago I was cheated by a combination of a local authority and a notary in France and after several months war I got £6000 compensation (over twenty years ago). I think that this sequence is my own worst experience of French incompetence, but I have found just as bad with the UK Border Agency.