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French labour laws could sink lacemaker

Monday, March 21, 2016 - 01:40

A 126-year-old French lacemaker faces collapse after a court overturned the company's decision to cut jobs, in what business groups say is another case of outdated labour laws making it hard to operate in France. Kirsty Basset reports.

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This French lacemaker, with a 126 year old history, is on the brink of collapse. Despite supplying to lingerie brands such as Ralph Lauren and Victoria's Secret, it may be forced to shut down - meeting the same fate as dozens of lacemakers before it. (SOUNDBITE) (French) CO-OWNER OF DESSEILLES LACES, GERARD DEZOTEUX, SAYING: "There was not a street in the city of Calais where you could not hear the noise of the lace-making machines. Today you have to walk for kilometres to hear one." French labour laws may prove the final straw. Faced with competition from Asian rivals, Gerard Dezoteux cut jobs in 2013 to save money. But a court overturned the decision, and ordered him to rehire five of the workers- AND pay them two and a half years of salary arrears plus compensation. It could cost at least 750,000 euros, more than the company's loss for the whole of 2015. (SOUNDBITE) (French) CO-OWNER OF DESSEILLES LACES, GERARD DEZOTEUX, SAYING: "Let's not kid ourselves, we're in a period of crisis, just like other firms, we can't deny it. These are difficult times." It's a tension being played out on the national stage. Business leaders say the unpredictable cost of laying off workers is turning companies off doing business in France. Trying to address this, Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveiled a labour reform bill to help France become more business-friendly. But amid protests, he was forced to water it down, and dropped a cap on compensation packages. Such a policy could have helped the Calais lacemaker stay afloat. It will appeal the court's ruling, but workers could lose their jobs in the meantime.

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French labour laws could sink lacemaker

Monday, March 21, 2016 - 01:40