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Uber on way up, along with French working hours

Busy executives seem to be getting better at sharing. Every quarter, Certify, a business-expense software firm, collects data from millions of travel-expense claims in America in order to spot market trends. The main story this year has been the incredible rise in the proportion of business travellers using Uber. Within the space of 12 months, the car-sharing service has gone from having the lowest share of “ground transportation” journeys, compared with regular taxis and car rentals, to the most.

There is no reason to think that Uber’s ascent will stop anytime soon. In fact it is baffling why anyone would prefer to hire their own car nowadays, with all that hanging around at the airport and bothersome paperwork, not to mention having to find somewhere to park in crowded cities. The only reason to drive yourself would be when a business trip involves travelling between cities. Equally, taxis also tend to be more hassle. They, too, can involve joining a long queue outside the airport. Frequently they won’t accept credit cards, they are always reluctant to give you change from a large bank note. Uber seems superior in nearly every aspect. If there is a downside, it is that airports still sometimes make it unnecessarily difficult for drivers to pick up their fares, occasionally necessitating a shady rendez-vous in a car park. Airport operators could be more encouraging.

Whether other parts of the “sharing economy” will also usurp the established competition is more debatable. Growth in the use by business people of Airbnb, a house-sharing service, was 259% in 2015, according to Certify. Yet many firms’ travel managers are wary of it. A survey last year by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives found that over half of firms have ruled out alternative suppliers of accommodation such as Airbnb in favour of traditional hotels. The main reason they cite is their “duty of care” to employees. Because sharing-economy firms are less regulated, they are viewed as posing more of a health-and-safety risk. Consequently, it also leaves employers more open to lawsuits when an executive trips down some poorly lit stairs.

But Airbnb may face an even greater stumbling block to wider acceptance. For it to dominate in the same way as Uber, it must counter another trend among travel managers. To keep a lid on costs, many are becoming more insistent that travel is booked through firms’ own travel systems. Central office will tend to be more conservative for the aforementioned reasons. And while an Uber car will be booked by the road warrior on the ground, as and when it is needed, a hotel is nearly always booked in advance. Still, the more that executives ask for it—or indeed just go ahead and book it themselves—the quicker it will be accepted.

France set for ‘de facto’ end to 35-hour working week
Prime Minister Manuel Valls says ‘exceptions’ to the 35-hour rule should not be seen as ‘transgressions’.
The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has opened the way to the erosion – but not the abolition – of the country’s 35-hour working week.

“Exceptions” to the 35-hour rule should no longer be seen as a “transgression”, Mr Valls said after receiving a long-awaited report on reform of France’s Kafkaesque employment laws.

The report, drawn up by a former justice minister Robert Badinter, calls for the rewriting and simplificaton of the Code du Travail or “labour code”, which runs to nine volumes and over 3,000 pages.

The report, which will form the basis of a draft law in March, makes no direct attack on workers’ rights, like permanent employment contracts, the minimum wage and the 35-hour week introduced by a Socialist government 16 years ago.

It calls, however, for more flexibility and the possibility of more, local union-employer agreements to circumvent rules, including the 35-hour week.

On Friday, France’s Economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, promised the “de facto” end to the limit on the number of hours. Such agreements are already possible. The principle of a 35-hour week has been much chipped away over the years. The “average” real working week in France is now 37 hours.

The report and proposed law will, nonetheless, be contested by left-wing politicians and hard-line trades union federations who see them as a “liberal” attack on acquired labour rights.


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