French President Emmanuel Macron, trying to orchestrate a shake-up of his country’s notoriously rigid labor laws and stimulate the economy, may find much to discuss with Donald Trump when the two meet July 14.
Like Trump, the French president is considering ways to reduce national debt and cut expenses without raising taxes.
Both leaders are also trying to navigate their way to a stronger, better economy — and that includes stepping warily when dealing with powerful labor organizations.
Of the two, President Trump appears to have the easier road to traverse, even though many labor organizations in the U.S. are outspoken opponents of certain Trump proposals — particularly the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
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But others — mostly unions in steel, coal and the trades — are at least willing to see if he makes good on promises to amend U.S. trade policies to favor American interests and to revitalize sectors of the manufacturing economy.
Macron, on the other hand, is expected to encounter only opposition as he goes after France’s set-in-stone labor laws.
According to Bloomberg News, Macron’s first order of business will be to try and loosen some of the decrees in France’s 3,000-page labor code.
Those rules govern everything from when employees have to respond to email to how long bathroom breaks can be — and Macron and others blame France’s 10% unemployment rate in large part on their rigidity.
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Macron plans to ask Parliament this month for permission to make labor reforms essentially by fiat, to avoid lengthy debates, Bloomberg said.
There’s even talk Macron will go after France’s famously lax 35-hour work week — although all the president has said thus far is that he wants businesses to be able to negotiate flexible schedules directly with workers.
French unions are already gearing up for a fight, although Macron’s timetable for reform — right in the middle of the long summer break — is likely to pose a challenge .
Just as Trump campaigned off the promise to “Make America Great Again,” Macron promised much the same in France, pledging to improve the economy by overhauling the country’s labor laws.
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Both leaders are now moving fast to make the changes they want, with Macron determined to have his labor reforms in place by September.
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