nettime's_roving_correspondent on Thu, 9 Jul 1998 19:09:26 +0200 (MET DST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Unwork v2.09b7; or, The Future Is Now (So It's Time to Go Home)

  When working too hard is a crime for French corporate climbers
                    (Guardian; 06/16/98)

SUCCESS, as every keen young executive knows, comes to those who
start early, finish late and take a bulging briefcase home at the
weekend. So pity the French corporate climbers who are discovering
that working too hard has become a crime.

Before a controversial plan to reduce the working week to 35 hours
comes into effect, the government has started raiding companies to
make sure executives and other professionals are not putting in
more hours than the current legal limit of 39 a week.

"Several thousand violations have been reported at four or five
big companies we have looked at," a spokeswoman at the employment
and solidarity ministry said. "They are test cases, really. The
status of upper-level employees, management and others, has to be

The raids, carried out by the ministry's 420 inspectors often on
tip-offs from trade unionists, have led to bizarre scenes at some
companies, according to an investigation by the International
Herald Tribune newspaper.

Senior engineers and executives trying to conclude a key contract
at a subsidiary of the telecommunications giant Alcatel were
surprised to find the job police in their midst at 7pm one evening
this year, demanding to know why they were working so late.

In another case, about 1,500 violations of working hours uncovered
at a subsidiary of the defence electronics group Thomson-CSF left
senior managers facing fines of up to pounds 50,000 each. After
negotiations with the ministry, the company agreed to close its
corporate headquarters at 7pm every day.

"We have been warned about this," a junior executive at one of the
country's leading DIY chain stores said. "We haven't been
inspected yet, as far as we know - but we've been told to be
careful. The inspectors can apparently be very devious."

Some reports have claimed that several inspectors have gone so far
as to photograph car licence plates in company car parks to deduce
their owners' working hours, and to monitor personal computers to
make sure that no work was being sneaked home.

Last month the French parliament approved a draft bill cutting the
legal working week from 39 hours to 35 hours by 2000, a victory
for the Socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin, who had made the
measure a key plank of his election campaign last summer.

The law calls for all companies with more than 20 staff to
institute the 35- hour week by January 1 2000. Smaller firms have
two more years to comply, and businesses will be offered tax or
other incentives in the first year if they act before the

The law has been condemned by business leaders, who say it will
lead to higher costs, reduced competitiveness and job losses. But
Mr Jospin argues that it will help ease France's 12 per cent
unemployment rate by spreading jobs around.

Exactly how the law will work will be defined by legislation due
next year, but it is already clear that one of the key problems
will be its application to cadres - company management, executives
and skilled professionals who generally work long hours.

According to the employment ministry, the inspections have been
suspended to allow for negotiations on how this group, who make up
nearly a quarter of the workforce, will be affected.

For the time being, however, keen young executives may be better
off watching the clock than putting in unpaid overtime.
#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: