The Corner

French Labor: a Story

Back when I was filming a documentary about Notre Dame Cathedral (I used to be a TV producer), one of my company’s French partners missed an important meeting with my boss and me and some other folks. The reason was telling. The guy’s primary business involved trucking or delivery or something like that. He had many people working for him. One of his drivers had shown up drunk or not at all regularly. So, the guy wanted to fire the driver. The hitch was that French law required government approval for any termination. The bureaucrats in charge scheduled the meeting three months in advance for the day we were getting together. So, for the preceding three months, the guy had to pay the trucker’s wages and benefits. If the boss missed the meeting with the government agents he would have defaulted and had to pay the trucker and the government for attempted wrongful termination. Instead this important and busy businessman had to spend a whole day with govt. inspectors trying to prove that he should be allowed to fire an employee. Or some such. The details are hazy now and the guy’s english was poor and when he explained all of this to us he was yelling a lot. But the lasting impression was clear: It is very, very, very hard to fire people even for cause in France.