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  D.F.'s Column Archive
March 22, 2006
Ah Paris! Now I'm Firing You For No Reason

Not long ago, I fired a bad employee. A really bad employee. The worst hire I ever made. No, make that the worst hire anyone ever made. If this person finds another job, it will take a gargantuan effort for that company to avoid bankruptcy before its new employee’s first lunch break. (Then again, you have to show up to have a lunch break, so this could provide a grace period of several days, if not weeks.)


So I fired the poor person. For no reason. Not that I didn’t have a reason. Oh I had reasons. I had so many reasons, I would have missed dinner had I taken the time to enumerate them all. Dinner in 2049. Oh, I had reasons.


But in the state in which I live, where the policies are not all that friendly to business in many other ways, you can at least make people at-will employees – allowing you to fire them for any reason or for no reason at all.


No reason is always the right choice, because you can’t argue with nothing. If I fire you because you showed up late, you can say you tried but you were stressed and your sister is mad at you and this is all so hard and . . .


So I fire you for nothing. I simply decree it to be so. Be gone. It’s the only way to go.


This brings us to France. Cultured, sophisticated, better-than-us France. Where the thought of us cowboy Americans walkin’ ‘round, spittin’ chew ‘n scratchin’ areselves is so – how you Americans say? – gauche.


Yes. That France. Well, it seems Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has put his weight behind a new law that allows French employees to fire people for no reason. No reason at all! Well, with a couple of conditions.


You can only do it if they have worked for you less than two years. And you can only do it if they are younger than 26. After that, you’re looking at the equivalent of national teacher tenure. And much of France is reacting as if the entire country was nothing more than a chapter of the National Education Association.


Union leaders say de Villepin is creating a generation of “disposable workers” and they are considering a call for a general strike. Major demonstrations have occurred nationwide. De Villepin is under pressure to reverse the law.


And these people wonder why we always pick them last when we’re choosing up sides for wars.


It’s hard to imagine that the French population at large really thinks job security should be defined as your employer needing a court order to get rid of you. But then again, I’ve never smoked a clove cigarette, so I can’t say for sure what goes through some entire countries’ minds.


What I do know is this: Their unemployment rate is much higher than ours. Their economy is growing much more slowly than ours. And this is the second major incident of widespread youth demonstrations in a mere few months, although I seem to recall the last rash of youth exuberance was more properly described as “riots.”


This is all so hard for us extra-chromosome cowboys to understand. Here in America, we just fire people whenever we feel like it – unless they are union members, judges or certain football coaches. And yet we have far fewer people out of work – as a percentage of the workforce – than France does.


How can this be? I’m going to go into my office tomorrow and fire all the rest of my employees for no reason. Because I can.


Except that my employees have job security, because they work hard and they are valuable to me. I need them. I could fire them, but I don’t want to. I’ve already blown through my obligatory worst-hire-of-modern-times and, having corrected it, I have no desire to fire anyone else.


There are a lot of things you can do to make people not want to fire you. Marching in demonstrations, making demands and threatening strikes isn’t the kind of stuff I usually put on the list, but c’est la vie, Pierre.


You’ll be 26 before you know it, and then they’ll never be able to get rid of you.


© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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