Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, the third largest luxury automaker in the world, is the latest firm to try and circumnavigate the unique French law that sets the workweek at a maximum of 35 hours.
The law was introduced back in 2000 by the then-Socialist government and the German conglomerate now wants workers at one of its two French assembly facilities to be allowed to deliver more hours, hinting it would take its business elsewhere if no agreement is reached. President Francois Hollande, who was the general secretary of Socialist Party back in the days of the bill’s creation, has been dealing with an unemployment rate at an 18-year high, and his views of the labor market have grown more flexible. His so-called employment-securization bill that was introduced back in June 2013 allowed companies to temporarily avoid the limit if they guaranteed the jobs and today companies such as Daimler are trying to further attack the workweek. “It’s the beginning of the end of the 35-hour week,” comments Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Euler Hermes in Paris. “Intelligent managers talk to the unions, they look at the numbers, they look at the competition, and they make it work for them. You will see innovative ways of going around this problem of the 35 hours.”
Daimler initiated the negotiations with labor officials at its Smart factory in Hambach in north-eastern France that has more than 800 workers and wants to have the workweek jump to 39 hours between 2016 and 2018. In return, each working hour in excess of the 35-hours limit will be paid 6 euros and CFDT union representative Patrick Hoszkowicz added the employees will also get a one-time 1,000 euros bonus if an agreement is signed.