by Agnes a Paris
Sun Apr 30th, 2006 at 09:32:53 AM EST
I often post here on ET to convey my indignation and also sense of powerlessness witnessing the evils plaguing people whose only sin is to have been born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Distress is the common fate in war zones of sub-Saharan Africa, in modern cities brothels, and often, right next door to my comfy armchair. Today is not exception, and the situation I am relating concerns someone I met this morning while shopping at a house decoration boutique in the street nearby. Heavy rain is pouring over Paris and I was the only customer in the store so I had a chat with the young woman attending to it.
What she revealed speaks for itself as to the appalling imbalances between those working for small businesses (less that 50 people in headcount as per the French breakdown of business categories) and people like me who are lucky enough to be employed by big companies, more likely to remain under scrutiny when it comes to compliance with the basic rules of labour regulations. The former are much more at risk to fall pray to dishonest, crooked employers who take advantage of their dominant position to force their employees into situations that blatantly disregard the minima provisions of the labor code.
No groundbreaking news, tomorrow is May the 1st, which among bank holiday is the one that should see people rest, for sake of the spirit of this day. In my company, people who will be working tomorrow (Capital markets IT support staff for traders on Asian stock exchanges, to mention only that example) will be properly compensated both in salary and recovery days. Indeed, in France, May the first is regarded as a Sunday and a bank holiday, hence the recovery day of both cumulate to entitle them to 2 days off. As far as payroll matters are concerned, the minimum legal obligation is a 150% daily wage. In some companies, industry agreements or internal agreements provide for extra compensations when the obligation to work on may the 1st was notified upon short notice.
The French labour code also provides for a maximum 5 day period of on-going activity.
The young woman I talked with was informed yesterday that she would have to work tomorrow. She will thus have been working for 7 days in a row before she takes her one-day weekly break, which happens to be Wednesday. Her request for being able to take ONE day compensation for working tomorrow was brutally dismissed on the grounds that Monday is a regular working day in her schedule.
She is mother to a 3-month baby. Both her request for part time work, and ability to leave work one hour earlier, which are also legal in France until the child is 3, were dismissed and she was threatened of being fired. These requests she made after a social worker informed her of those rights, which she had been ignorant of thus so far and consequently unable to claim.
I spent some time with her providing practical advice as to the ways out of the situation. She seemed on the edge of exhaustion and I felt truly for her, so I tried to provide practical advice as to her means of recourse and ways out of situation. I also tried to talk her out of her fear to be made redundant should she express any request. Keep in mind that these requests would have the mere result of bringing her employer back into the boundaries of legality.
We need not look very far to witness the legal and work safety net loopholes, even in a modern and rather social conscious country like France. Even if things have improved beyond comparison since mine and textile factory workers fought for their rights, a lot of progress remains to be done. Employers will be employers, and the bodies in charge of ensuring work regulations are duly enforced and complied with are so under staffed that reckless employers will continue to thrive on their being in a position to intimidate poorly informed employees.
How is it like in your country ? What are the basic labour code provisions regulating working on bank holidays and adapting working hours to specific family situations ? Do you feel these regulations are complied with ? Have you witnesses caese similar to the one I depicted ? The thread is yours.