A business owner in south-west France is encouraging readers who are artisans to vote in this month’s Chambres de Métiers et de l’Artisanat (CMA) elections.
The vote, which is open until October 14, allows artisanal businesspeople to choose representatives to champion their interests on a regional and national level. Voting slips should have been received in the post.
April Higginson, whose business is in Sarlat (Dordogne), urges artisans not to throw the slip away but to use it, because it can make a big positive difference to their working life.
The elections take place every five years with the intention of voting in a president and a team of 50 artisans who represent members and decide on the way in which their regional CMA will be run.
They can, for example, help decide what courses should be on offer, how best to encourage new employees to the region, and how to support different artisan sectors.
‘No one should miss out on helpful free courses’
Mrs Higginson says choosing the team which will represent artisans is important to be able to get the best service from the local CMA.
“When my husband Max and I started our business 14 years ago, specialising in the sale and repairs of machines and accessories for the construction industry, we were very naïve and found it a real struggle to set up and get established,” she said.
“Max went on a course with the CMA, but found it unhelpful and I think, like many people, decided at that time, it was not worth going back.
“Six years ago we were contacted by the CMA and it was then I realised how much help they can give, and how no one should miss out.
“Our current president – who is standing for re-election – made a real difference and in the past few years, Max and I have both benefited from new and better courses which have been extremely useful.
“I am also thrilled to have been chosen to be part of the president’s team, Fiers d’être Artisans (Proud to be an Artisan). I in particular will have a role to represent non-French businesses.
“In the Dordogne, 10% of the firms registered with the Chambre de Métiers are owned by foreign nationals, and so our voice is important. This percentage is not as high everywhere else, but I have now learnt that getting involved with the local CMA can be extremely beneficial.”
Mrs Higginson adds that she has been on numerous training courses: “One helped me with marketing skills, while another was on how to understand and read the accounts your accountant has drawn up for you.
“Another was on the extremely important subject of how to draw up a quotation to make sure the wording is correct, and what you should do if something goes wrong.
“These were all free, and provided essential information that you might otherwise not know existed.
“In the Dordogne, some of the courses are in English, and even though that is not the case everywhere, it is worth going along even if it is in French as you will probably at least understand enough for it to be useful.”
Mrs Higginson has also had help applying for grants, and with legal paperwork. And she says it is a great networking opportunity: “The CMA covers a huge range of skills from hairdressing, bookbinding, building and manufacturing, and it is fantastic to meet so many people.”
How do I vote in the election?
Usually there are two lists to choose from for each region, and the names of candidates will be with your voting card, received through the post.
“You may think it does not concern you because you do not know anyone on the list, but look carefully, because there is bound to be someone local to you or even an artisan you might know of,” Mrs Higginson said.
“You can get in touch with them and ask about their campaign. Members of the president’s list should be knocking on doors, so do not hesitate to talk to them.
“They are not politicians but artisans like yourself, sharing the same types of problems, so you can put your point of view across to them.
“The better the team you choose, the better you will be represented. Most of the British living in France no longer have any opportunity to vote in political elections, so at least here is your chance to have your say.”
You can vote by post or online. To vote by post you choose the list you want to vote for, fold that list and put it in the brown voting envelope.
Rip off the address and unique barcoded slip. Put both the slip and the brown envelope in the prepaid envelope and post. Do not write anything on the paper as this will nullify your vote.
To vote online go to the CMA website, fill in the unique user code supplied on your letter, your date of birth and the code that is shown on the screen.
Choose your preferred list and validate. Provide either your mobile phone number or email address for a security code. Enter your code and validate.
Mrs Higginson says that by voting and getting involved with your CMA you will be able to influence the way in which the CMA can support artisans.
You can contact her by email if you have any queries at email@example.com