The wrong numbers of job seekers arrived, growth forecasts plunge (-6 percentage points of GDP for the two months of confinement) and the jobs crisis is looming so that theeternal debate brought honor to favor of the coronavirus crisis.

On working time, it was the Medef that first fired through the voice of its president, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux "The important thing is to restart the economic machine and reproduce mass wealth , to try to erase, from 2021, the growth losses of 2020 ", he asserted on April 14, after a month of confinement by proposing to limit leave in particular and by extending the working time of employees to support recovery.

Drastic measures

Last week, several liberal think tanks put the idea back on the carpet, to get out, according to them, of this "collapse of the economy", according to a term used by the government. The Montaigne Institute, in a report, "Rebounding against the covid 19", thus places the whole question around "the issue of working time".

Behind the idea of ​​working more, that of "acting on supply, that is to say on the activity of companies, in order to facilitate their resumption of activity", productivity having decreased "due to the reduction of social interactions and the disorganization of production chains ”. It is therefore necessary, believes in his note the economist Bertrand Martinot, "to soften some persistent legal obstacles" by allowing companies to "derogate from the minimum daily rest time of 11 hours minimum per day as part of an agreement on the right upon disconnection ".

Other avenues: delete vacations and a public holiday, ensure that employee training is no longer carried out during their working time or encourage an increase in working time, without paying the corresponding additional remuneration at once.

For Ifrap, the Foundation for research on administrations and public policies, the dogma of "working more" is also obvious to save companies and avoid layoffs.

An old hand in social relations in France, and a former social advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy, Raymond Soubie was even surprised to see "no one anticipating" social plans and the situation of companies that will face "durably reduced markets".

He predicts the disappearance of "tens of thousands, and probably hundreds of thousands of jobs". So much so that he recommends reviewing "urgently". the rules of the social plans for the companies most in difficulty, and for the others to pass agreements providing for efforts by companies on employment in exchange for efforts of employees on working time.

A political debate

On the right, the proposals are multiplying. Christian Jacob, the president of LR, pleads to “get out of the shackles of 35 hours”, and his party is working on a recovery plan, with in particular the contributions of the former Minister of Budget Eric Woerth. "We have to get out of the shackles of 35 hours (...) The question of working time will have to be asked within the framework of social dialogue, but at the level of the company or in the branches, not of the State", he has Monday on France Inter.

And he preaches on a case-by-case basis. “We can very well do this within the framework of the annualization of working time and to do it by company, as close as possible to reality, and in social negotiation between employees and the company manager. (...) This would allow employees to have an increase in wages and therefore purchasing power, and to restore competitiveness to businesses. (...) "

But longer working hours are not on the agenda for Laurent Berger. For him too, we "take too long" to worry about employment while "the risk of bankruptcies in cascade and its share of social and territorial dramas is confirmed".

"If we think that we are going to get out of it positively by promising sweat and tears, we are in the mad," he said in the weekly La Vie.

Rather than wanting to lengthen working hours, "we must learn to work differently and to work better", he argues, particularly worried about the situation of young people. The CGT also remains committed to 32 hours.

For now, the government is focusing above all on a return to work. "The problem of the day is getting back to work and saving jobs," said Labor Minister Muriel Pénicaud.

For her, companies already have room for maneuver negotiable with their employees, in particular the quota of 200 overtime hours without social security contributions, which is still very little used.

Jenny Chase for DayNewsWorld