Emmanuel Macron had been in his new job less than 48 hours when he dropped his bombshell. Picked by François Hollande to be economy minister after a row over austerity prompted a reshuffle, the young investment banker suggested that France could consider an end to its hallowed 35-hour week.
Was this Hollande’s “Clause IV moment”, analysts wondered? Was the French president about to show his commitment to economic reform by abandoning a totemic policy, as Tony Blair did on becoming Labour leader in 1994?
Not really, it emerged.
Laurent Berger, head of France’s largest trade union, the CFDT, made it clear that organised labour would not tolerate the scrapping of the 35-hour week. Macron, he said, had “made a mistake” and, as far as the unions were concerned, “the subject is closed”.