May 18, 2012 C’est la Vie!

Every morning on CNBC and CNN, I am seeing the concerns over the economic pain needed in southern Europe. Is Greece going to default, is France going to stimulate the economy, are jobs going to be created? The Germans are aghast over the excesses of the Greeks, the French, c’est la vie, want socialism or at least not Sarkozy, and the Spanish worry about their banks, crashing property values..

I have a place in the French West Indies, so I know a little about this area. If I can generalize about this region of the world, which seems to correspond to the former mother country it would be as such. In the French West Indies, nothing ever seems to get done and nobody cares. In the islands formerly part of Great Britain, everyone seems to care that something needs to be done, but nobody seems to do anything about it, and the Spanish islands, well the word, manyana, covers it all or so it seems, as why would you worry about something at all as you could do it tomorrow or manyana?

I got an email from a neighbor down here. They like outside showers and desired hot water so they called the resort and organized the maintenance staff to put in a hot and cold outside shower for $900. Right before they came, they called and were assured that it was complete and it worked fine. In mid April, they arrived to find…no shower. For days, it seemed nobody could be found to answer the question of where….finally near the end of their stay they went for a walk and wondered when we had got an outside shower for our unit… was theirs, they had built it in the wrong place. C’est la vie…..nobody seemed to care, but now we have a new shower.

I went today to the organizational meeting of the hotel/condo association of the property we own here on the island. We talk of a burden of 30-35% for benefits and taxes of employing someone in the USA. Here the rate has risen in recent years from 55% to 61%. The employees also get 6 weeks vacation, 37 hour workweeks, and a paid 13th month, which means each December you just pay them above and beyond what they get paid the month previous a month of salary, free. Oh, I forget the 16 paid holidays, some for notable days like Ascension, or Bastille Days, but others for much nebulous holdiays for saints I have never heard of. Work on those days is double or triple time, at the least.

Business and the legal system here is not America and it seems what is up is down and what down is up. Our flag is red, white, and blue, thiers is blue, white, and red. So to think of things here like the flags, is the exact opposite. Hiring someone in France is subject to regulations like mandatory union over 49 employees when as of that point the employees must be union and you pay 1.5% of revenue to the unions no matter what. You must also employ at your expense a union auditor and keep an office for them, so that they can look at your books to make sure you don’t cheat the union out of anything. The union has the right to fire collectively the manager of any enterprise at their whim and if they feel like it the dreaded strike.

I am not obliged to be anti-union at least in the American sense. Well unions have been good for employees and of course one would think a union shop would lead to better and happy employees. However, in general, productivity is not their major goal, C’est la vie…..This hotel has authorized painting of all the individual units over a period of 5 years, 40,000 Euros each annum. They already employ a painter…perfect, right? I could paint 20 small buildings in a year and in fact maybe a month. They have to outsource the painting because the painter won’t paint. Fire him? That would cost five years salary in severance.

You see something like doing your job or not doing it in this case is not acceptable in France as a reason to terminate employment. A security guard with narcolepsy, sorry sleeping on the job is not a ‘with cause’ reason to terminate. Another employee found guilty of theft had to be guaranteed his old job after getting out of jail, luckily they didn’t have to pay him salary while in jail. Even an employee who all out refused to ever do anything charged the management with harassment for waking her up in the middle of the day in her car while on duty. That case is still in court, but during appeal, they can’t terminate her.

To see European leaders “shocked” at 20% unemployment to me is laughable, in my opinion it seems lucky they have any non-government employment at all. Maybe you want to outsource something, like a project. Thirty days of contract is the max. If the person on contract shows up on the thirty-first day and you don’t escort him or her off the property within four hours he or she is considered hired and subject to full severance even if gthey are employed by someone else.

Mr Hollande the new French leader talks of jobs, but you would really have to be insane to bring a large company to France. To guarantee something for life is essentially guaranteeing a lack of jobs, but I’m not sure the French can see it, like I said, they don’t seem to care, c’est la vie….

I used to worry about all of this but after a little wine, a little sun, some cheese, my gorgeous wife….I don’t seem to care either…..c’est la vie!



3 thoughts on “May 18, 2012 C’est la Vie!

    • Yes, for some reason the northern Europeans have somehow managed to get benefits worthy of all but not killed the work ethic, maybe the southern Europeans never had the work ethic of the north, I don’t know.

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