Scrap two public holidays and loosen the 35-hour week: that was the controversial advice from French business Wednesday, as France labors through a deep economic crisis.
In a blueprint to create one million jobs that has already been attacked as a "provocation" by labor unions, the MEDEF business group called for a "debate without taboos" over France's "outdated" social model.
"Getting rid of two public holidays per year would extend the average annual working year by 1.2 days, which represents 0.9 percent of gross domestic product and 100,000 extra jobs," MEDEF said.
Employees in France enjoy holiday benefits that are the envy of most of their counterparts around the world, but have 11 public holidays, about the European average.
The group also called for a "revision of the principle that the 35-hour week had to be applied to all companies," saying sectoral-wide agreements could be reached for parts of the economy that wanted to opt out.
MEDEF boss Pierre Gattaz insisted he was not calling into question the 35-hour week or the minimum wage but called for an urgent shake-up of the French economy that even its own economy minister has described as "sick."
However, in a rare slice of good news for the crisis-hit economy, official figures showed unemployment dipped for the first time this year, albeit only slightly.
The labor ministry said there were now 3.41 million people claiming jobless benefits in France, a dip of 11,100 or 0.3 percent compared to the previous month.
"Given the economic and social condition of our country, given the period of economic crisis we are suffering, given the dangers we have to overcome, the time for hesitation, procrastination and half-measures is over," said Gattaz.
France's social model is outdated, he charged, adding that the country was now competing with "150 countries" rather than five.
'Fear of Change'
Business leaders in the country were already familiar with a "fear of change" in France, he said.
Unions hit back immediately, with the leader of the FO union, Jean-Claude Mailly, describing the proposals as "unacceptable."
In a bid to pep up the eurozone's second-largest economy, the deeply unpopular President Francois Hollande has proposed a "Responsibility Pact" between government and business.
The proposal, unpopular with the left, would see business getting 40 billion euros ($52 billion) in tax breaks in return for a pledge to create jobs over three years.
With France's public deficit ballooning, Hollande plans to finance this with 50 billion euros in public spending cuts.
Made in Czech Republic
In an embarrassing aside, MEDEF was left red-faced when it emerged that parts of their bright yellow badges touting that their plans would create "1 million jobs" had been made abroad.
Richard Avron, head of the AD Distribution company who sold over 20,000 of the badges to MEDEF, said the metal badges had been imported from the Czech Republic, but assembled with the printed part in France.
He estimated the Czech part of the total production value at 35 percent.