The Wrong Way to Reform
In his New Year’s vœux to the nation, Emmanuel Macron listed the reforms that would be at the top of his agenda for 2019. In particular:
“Le gouvernement dans les prochains mois devra poursuivre ce travail pour changer en profondeur les règles de l’indemnisation du chômage afin d’inciter davantage à reprendre le travail”.
It turns out that even before the president spoke these words, the government had issued a decree, without prior consultation with the trade unions or others with a particular interest in this reform, that took a much harsher stance than had previously been announced or debated. The crux of the matter is the treatment of the unemployed who fail to show up for the required periodic interview at the unemployment office. Originally, the sanctions for such failure were to be graduated: A month without benefits for the first mistake, two months for the second, etc. But in the final order–not a law but a décret–issued by the government, the unemployed individual is punished by forfeiture of all benefits at the first missed interview.
It is not difficult to imagine any number of reasons why a person might miss an interview. The only appeal process leaves the final decision in the hands of the same person who makes the initial decision to deprive the person of benefits. Such a draconian punishment seems cruel and unusual, and the high-handed manner in which the order was issued, on the eve of its implementation, without prior consultation or debate, is high-handed in the extreme. This cannot be justified as an “incentive” to coax people back to work more quickly. It can only be seen as a measure of administrative terror. This is not the way to reconcile the government with the people, which the president said was necessary if his reform agenda was to succeed. This decree should not stand. The president can demonstrate his sincerity by rescinding it immediately.