French Labour Minister resigned

Francois Rebsamen opted rather to be a mayor than a minister. Credits: AFP

Francois Rebsamen opted rather to be a mayor than a minister. Credits: Villard/SIPA

19 Aug. — French Labour Minister François Rebsamen officially resigned. Over the next few days he will continue to perform his previous duties, until a replacement is found. He leaves the problems with unemployment unresolved.

François Rebsamen, a well-known security expert, repeatedly encouraged rumours that he might become the next Interior Minister. However, he has not been successful at this under Jean-Marc Ayrault or Manuel Valls. After a demonstrative rejection to join a new selection of ministers in 2012, he was nevertheless called in again to work in the new government.

He joined Manual Valls’s team in late March 2014, leaving his post as mayor of Dijon (Côte d’Or department, Burgundy region), which for the third time he had literally won just three days before his new appointment. However, this rush to the capital was counterbalanced by an equally hasty return. Alain Millot, his replacement as mayor, died of cancer on 27 July. After two weeks’ pause, the minister decided to take up the post of city head once again.

French observers have paid comparatively little attention to the labour minister’s impetuous resignation. In three years time, the Socialist leadership has got everyone accustomed to large-scale, loud, forced reshufflings, so the present self-motivated exit has generated interest less in the internal contortions of the Socialist Party and more in the results of the work of the official himself – especially since Rebsamen was responsible for one of the most complex issues.

Indicator and minister return to basics

Indicator and minister return to basics

From the very start, he was faced with one of the most laborious socio-economic tasks – coping with unemployment. By the end of the first quarter of 2014, it had reached 10.2%, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies.

It is possible to judge how successful he was by, at least, the epithet given him by the paper Figaro – Unemployment Minister. Almost 17 months into the job and his accomplishments were exceptionally modest, even negative. Statistical data for the second quarter of 2015 will only be published in early September, but the interim results (Eurostat monthly monitoring) show that the unemployment rate is at about 10.2%. In the first quarter it was at 10.3%.

However, he achieved one victory just before handing in his resignation. In late July, parliament approved a bill on social dialogue and employment which he had prepared back in 2014. And the president signed it on 17 August. In particular, the law introduces several new rules regarding the relationship between companies and employees: staff in small businesses are now able to form their own representative bodies; for large companies, the minimum membership threshold required for placing a workers representative on the board of directors was lowered; micro-companies (less than 11 people) and their employees received the possibility of participating in joint committees at the regional level; and, starting in 2017, a system will be created to account for the professional development of each employee.

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