...Continued from page 1

A lot of older large French firms have paternalistic attitudes towards their employees; some of which were developed in the last century, when modern transportation changed distribution patterns - for example, from the time when simple shops changed into large-scale department stores.

The problem back then, was to engage large numbers of people and induce to show up for work, on time and regularly. One place de la Bastille - rain way to build employee loyalty, was to offer discretionary 'perks' in addition to a seemingly modest salary.

The 'perks' - which were often true social benefits - became quite elaborate over a period of many years. Even today these can vary from discount-price Christmas-gift catalogues to subsidized holiday rentals, from subsidies for paying baby-sitters to annual 'bonuses' paid at the time of the 'rentrée,' for school supplies or clothes.

The place de la Bastille in rain, after a long summer of sunshine.

Some companies, which had these 'perks' as a general policy, have eliminated them - but have totalled the value of the 'perks' and added the sum to salaries - which allows employees the discretion of how to spend the money.

In order to pay for 39 hours of salary for 35 hours of work, it is easy to imagine that one way of doing it would be for companies which still offer the 'perks,' to eliminate them. This could amount to a modest cut in income and substantial cut in benefits for employees, but no increase in salary totals for employers.

In a society increasingly oriented towards service, a shorter work-week will allow employees to seek additional jobs; and will allow employers to offer part-time positions, based on flexible periods of time.

The example of the United States shows this happening; the 'minus' side of it seems to be that it requires longer hours of work to make a fair wage, and this is coupled to the increase in costs of having multiple jobs, with a corresponding loss of family and leisure time.

The only 'plus' to it - welcomed by the market as a whole - is that jobs should more plentiful when economic times are good. This is not the case today in France, and both employers and employees are a bit nervous about launching this 'experiment.'

The coming monetary union of Europe makes the change imperative, as it could provide French employers with a flexible labor force; one nimble enough to adapt to changes sweeping like storm throughout the world.

The time is also right for this - intellectual - change. It implies that capital and the workforce will be governed by markets rather than by 'diktats' formulated by the government's economic gurus in Paris.

The question is - will the French respond with their native ingenuity and take their own economic future into their hands - and show the world how clever they are?

It is not an idle question. After 250 years of centralized management, it may take a while to figure out responsibility is personal and it is not governed by an obscure ministry in Paris.

Faits Divers

This is the name given by French-language newspapers for all the little items; involving muggings, spectacular car crashes, collapsing buildings and various other incidents of humdrum everyday life. Many of these 'odd-happenings' are treated in your home-town paper and I see no reason to recount the Parisian versions of them here.

What I do; I look for the amusing ones, along the lines of 'Kid Bites Dinosaur,' especially if it has some connection to Paris.

This week, after the Papon story, and the somewhat boring "35-hour Workweek' story, all I have left is murder, mayhem, pedophilia, terrible accidents, slander, corpses, pitbulls, pandering, convictions, vandalism, pillage - all this is from just last Tuesday's edition of Le Parisien.

I waited until getting to Paris yesterday to buy the paper, but Champs-Elysees the Paris edition had been struck. On return to home, the Yvelines-edition was sold out. It saved me reading Friday's collection of misery. The SNCF-RATP had a local transport strike on Wednesday and since I got caught in it I don't feel it is worth a comment.

So long as it's not sleet, the Champs-Elysées is fine.

The Front National bricked up a club in Vitrolles they didn't like, and on Friday a court ordered it unbricked - but it had been closed since June anyway. The FN really does a lot of meddling with culture and it makes people remember Joe Goebbels.

On 25. February 1994, the UDF deputy of the National Assembly, Yann Piat, was assassinated in Hyères in the Var as she was being driven home by her chauffeur. Two men were arrested on 3. March, but released on 15. June.

Two other men were arrested the next day, and said the murder had been ordered by a bar owner - who was not, apparently, arrested. One of the two recanted on 26. September. In the summer of 1996, 'Le Canard Enchainé' hinted that two big-time politicians had ordered the killing. Last Tuesday, two of the satirical paper's journalists brought out a book containing an elaboration of the earlier accusation.

Two politicians, not named in the book, went to court after the book's appearance, to sue for libel about its contents.

Thus, the 'Affaire Yann Piat' became 'L'Affaire Rougeot,' named after one of the book's authors, and Le Parisien deplored it on its front page on Thursday. The paper critized the lack of proof offered by the journalists - who are keeping their source, supposedly in the Naval Intelligence service, secret.

The Ministry of War? Defense? is, meanwhile, looking for this source. According to Le Parisien, it is a worse crime to accuse a high-ranking politician or wrong-doing without legal proof, than to assassinate a deputy of the National Assembly.

Within the framework of the same case I don't want to mention the two brothers and their hard disk, who apparently committed suicide together, nor the other politician from the area who committed 'suicide' last week by shooting himself five times, once in his right arm, while holding the gun in his right hand.

No, you don't want to know about these little 'affairs.' Not any of them. Next week I will use a magnifying glass to find the true 'Faits Divers' with which we can amuse ourselves.

Sports News

Since last week's overindulgence in 'sports' at the Prix de l'Arc out at Longchamp, I have not had the energy to look for the latest word about Alain Prost, and his efforts to turn Versailles into a Formula One race track. I seriously doubt this is his intention, but I am leaving my mind open to the idea.


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