Work more or share jobs, the taboo of working time resurfaces

A paving stone in a confined pond. “We will have to ask ourselves the question of working time to try to erase, from 2021, the growth losses of 2020,” said mid-April Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, the president of Medef, in an interview with Figaro. As soon as said… The controversy immediately began with a scathing response from Laurent Berger, the secretary general of the CFDT. “It’s totally indecent”, he got carried away, criticizing “the return of the old moons” of the employers. Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux is obliged to extinguish the fire by making an act of contrition. To better sign on April 30 with Laurent Berger a common text on the need to resume activity, which, of course, does not allude to the sacrosanct working time.

It is the president of the LR group in the Senate, Bruno Retailleau, who, in the meantime, took over on April 22 on France Inter: “We will have to agree to work up to 37 hours per week, that is to say around 1,700 hours per year with an overtime quota of around 300 hours. ” A solution rejected by the government which for the moment remains at a good distance from this very ideological debate. Emmanuel Macron considers having settled the issue in 2017 with his reform of the Labor Code, which offers employers the possibility of waiving the 35 hours during peak activity periods, employees working fewer hours during off-peak weeks. The only obligation: the signing of a collective agreement with the unions.

The latter, as well as the left-wing parties, phosphorate on the subject. The idea: a sharing of working time between the French to create jobs and thus reduce the looming mass unemployment.

This rhetoric is not new: it was already the argument of the Socialists in 1998 during the law on 35 hours. An argument also taken up by the CGT, on the line of Benoît Hamon, former PS presidential candidate in 2017, who wanted to reduce the legal working time to 32 hours per week.

Telecommuting is a game-changer

So, work more to revive the activity? Or share the work to reduce future unemployment? Companies, tired of this ultra-politicized debate, are on another wavelength. Drawing lessons from the health crisis, Xavier Chéreau, HR Director of PSA, presented his New Era for Agility plan on May 6. In the long term, 80,000 white-collar workers in the group will be offered to work remotely, the physical presence in the workplace being reduced to “one day to one and a half days per week, on average”. The legislative framework of 35 hours is of course respected. Nevertheless: the concept of legal working hours takes a hit. The elected officials of French companies favor this type of remote organization. They are even 15% to consider that it allows to “work less” and more than 20% to be delighted to be able to devote themselves to “more leisure”. A privilege reserved only for 38% of French employees whose jobs can be carried out remotely.

Who wants to sacrifice Ascension Thursday?

The economist Bertrand Martinot, former adviser to Nicolas Sarkozy, drew a note of about thirty pages for the Institut Montaigne. The postulate ? It is not enough to support demand with a plan to revive the economy: “We must also act on supply”. The idea? “Support companies that want to increase working hours.” Following are proposals ranging from the permanent abolition of a public holiday (Ascension Thursday) to the shortening of one week of the All Saints’ school holidays in 2020, in through the possibility of imposing redemption of RTT days until 2022. Four of the nine proposals exclusively target the public sector with a “reorganization of working time in the administrations” and a “reduction in the number of RTT on a provisional basis. “. On reading the document, the Minister of Labor Muriel Pénicaud kicked in touch: “The problem of the day is the return to work, and save employment”, she reacted on Europe 1, noting that “companies which have good social dialogue are already adjusting working time.” P.-HM