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Ten years after it was introduced, France bids au revoir to the compulsory 35-hour work week as part of economic reforms

France's National Assembly and Parliament gather in Versailles, western Paris

(quote)

PARIS: Ten years after it was introduced, France has ended the compulsory 35 hour work week. Legislators in France have voted to allow companies to sidestep the 35-hour workweek by negotiating individual overtime agreements with their employees. The new legislation, which was passed by Parliament late Wednesday night and which will take effect in September, is the boldest step yet in stripping what many view as an emblematic labor law, without quite getting rid of it. While the workweek limit is as good as buried, every hour beyond 35 that is worked will be considered overtime and will therefore be more expensive.

Labour Minister Xavier Bertrand denied that people would have more working hours imposing on them and said now "everything will be negotiated company by company." Under the new legislation no one in France can work more than 48 hours in a given week, including overtime. Right now, despite the current law, many French employees work longer than 35 hours a week but accumulate time off or overtime. They actually average 41 hours, compared with 41.7 in Germany, 43.1 in Britain, 41.3 in Italy and the EU average is 41.9. In terms of paid annual leave, the French are in the mid-range in Europe with 25 days holiday as guaranteed non-working days.

France's president Nicolas Sarkozy

The new legislation opens the way for company-specific negotiated agreements between employers and labor unions about the number of hours a week and days a year an employee works. The new limits are more generous than before: For manual workers who are paid by the hour, the weekly maximum limit rises to 48 hours, in line with European Union legislation. For white-collar staff members, paid by the day, the annual maximum of days they can be asked to work will rise to 235 days from 218. Also up for negotiation is the amount of time an employee gets in compensation for the extra hours worked, as opposed to being paid for the overtime.

The new changes are likely to affect small and medium-sized businesses most. Many large companies benefited from the additional flexibility that the 35-hour week provided by allowing them to annualize work time, making staff members work more in high season and less in low season without having to pay costly overtime. Blue-collar workers have periodically complained that this practice ended up reducing their income.

Nicolas Sarkozy is pressing ahead with reforms in France-all without provoking huge strikes and street protests

But most employees, and particularly those with comfortable incomes and a preference for additional time off, have grown attached to the shorter workweek. Professionals, whose salaries are calculated on a daily basis rather than hourly, fear that they will lose a dozen extra holidays a year that they had enjoyed in compensation for working more than the legal 35 hours a week. Their dismay at the changes was on display Wednesday afternoon when hundreds protested outside the Senate building, sporting banners with slogans like "There is life after work." And the union that represents white-collar employees and management staff, CFE-CGC, published an open letter in French newspapers complaining about the changes.

The new legislation also includes rules to make labor unions more representative. Any union participating in negotiations on work time needs to have obtained at least 10 percent of the vote in company elections. But any union representing 30 percent or more of the internal vote is allowed to sign a binding agreement with management.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of The Economist, Reuters/Charles Platiau, and AFP

Original Source: euronews and International Herald Tribune

Cartoons - "Patriot", "Just Us Department", "Provinces of Iraq", "The pilot is extra", disaster response, scooters, GM, and more

Cartoon: 'You call yourself a patriot?!! Then where’s your flag pin?!! '

Cartoon: 'It used to be called the Justice Department'

Cartoon: 'If I could afford the gas, I’d chase him down and run him over'

Cartoon: provinces of Iraq

Cartoon: 'It’s a postcard from Europe'

Cartoon: 'Johnson, when I said I wanted to see a new concept that showed where GM is today I didn’t mean literally...'

Cartoon: 'The pilot is extra'

Images courtesy of Britt/State Journal-Register, Britt/The State Journal-Register, Sherttius / Boulder Camera, and CAM/Ottawa Citizen/Copley News Service, Mike Smith/Las Vegas Sun/King Features Syndicate, and Jones/Creators Syndicate

Original Source: Time

US court order: Google must reveal all users’ information - every user who has ever watched any video on YouTube, worldwide

Judge orders Google to give YouTube user data to Viacom

(quote)

Google expressed disappointment and privacy groups voiced outrage Thursday after a judge ordered Google to give entertainment giant Viacom details of video-watching habits of visitors to its popular video-sharing website YouTube. On Tuesday US District Court Judge Louis Stanton backed Viacom's request for data on which YouTube users watch which videos on the website. Viacom is seeking the data as potential evidence for a billion-dollar copyright suit against Google, which Viacom charges acts as a willing accomplice to Internet users that put clips of Viacom's copyrighted television programs on YouTube.

The US court has ordered Google to hand over the "logging database" which is updated each time a video is watched on YouTube. The database contains the unique login ID of the user who watched it, the time when the user watched it, the IP address (unique online identifier) of the computer used to watch the video and the identifier for the video. The database is stored on live servers at Google and equates to 12 terabytes of storage. The judge also ruled that Google should divulge the details of every video that has ever been removed from YouTube, for whatever reason. If you've ever watched a video on YouTube then the details of that viewing will be stored somewhere in that database. This copyright case might be taking place in the US but it would appear the logging database makes no distinction between users in different countries.  read more »

Yahoo-Google deal faces scrutiny, antitrust experts say

Yahoo Inc. headquarters in Sunnyvale, California

(quote)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Google and Yahoo face intense U.S. Justice Department scrutiny of their deal to share some advertising revenue, and the heat will likely increase under a new administration, antitrust experts said. Google, with more than 60 percent of the Web search market, and Yahoo, with 16.6 percent, announced a deal last week that would allow Yahoo to place Google ads on its site and collect the revenue. The firms said Yahoo's cash flow could grow by $250 million to $450 million (127 million to 229 million pounds) in the first year under the deal, which Yahoo sought as an alternative to software giant Microsoft's $47.5 billion buyout offer.

Yahoo and Google describe the deal as very limited. "These are still independent companies who will continue to compete aggressively," said Yahoo lawyer Hewitt Pate of law firm Hunton and Williams. But the deal has raised eyebrows among antitrust lawyers. Bruce McDonald, a Jones Day antitrust attorney and former deputy assistant attorney general, pointed out that the arrangement could lessen Yahoo's incentive to compete vigorously against Google because Yahoo would collect revenue no matter which company placed an advertisement.

Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California  read more »

June 12 - US Supreme Court delivers its third consecutive rebuff to Bush Administration's handling of detainees

Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court

(quote)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered its third consecutive rebuff to the Bush administration’s handling of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, ruling 5 to 4 that the prisoners there have a constitutional right to go to federal court to challenge their continued detention.

The court declared unconstitutional a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that, at the administration’s behest, stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from the detainees seeking to challenge their designation as enemy combatants.

U.S. Supreme Court

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the truncated review procedure provided by a previous law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, “falls short of being a constitutionally adequate substitute” because it failed to offer “the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus.”

Justice Kennedy declared: “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”

Guantánamo Bay naval base

'Habeas corpus' (Latin: [We command] that you have the body) is the name of a legal action, or writ, through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention of themselves or another person. The writ of habeas corpus has historically been an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action.  read more »

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