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Political Context
Population ~ 64 mil.
3 times as dense as USA, only Canada and Sweden in the course less densely populated
85% Catholic  with Muslim’s the second largest group
Broad Presidential Powers - esp. defense and foreign policy
President since 1995 Jacques Chirac, Conservative
Re-elected 2002
1981-95 Francois Mitterand, Socialist
2 chamber Parliament
Prime Minister and Cabinet responsible to National Assembly
Dominique de Villepin is Prime Minister
Union for a Popular Movement
Coalition of several former center right parties, largest of which was the Gaullist Party
Union for French democracy
Center and Christian Democratic Parties
UMP and UDF usually in coalition
Communists – PCF
PSF and PCF normally in coalition government
Formed government 1997-2002
National Front
Anti-immigration, neo-fascist ultra-nationalists
No members in current Parliament but its leader finished second in the 2002 presidential election
Huge number of splinter parties
Radical left and radical right
But fairly stable left and right coalitions among major parties
Party Representation – Chamber of Deputies 2002
577 seats
2 stage elections so no percentages
UDF – 29
So the center-right coalition has 384, an overwhelming majority
Replaced left-wing government
PCF – 21
Traditionally they won about ¼ of the votes but they have lost ground in last decade
So left coalition has less than half seats of right
Election 2004 (elected only 1/3 of Senators) (Me – next time will be one half)
Somewhat similar result
However 2004 regional elections went overwhelmingly went to PSF and PCF coalition
They now control 20 of 22 regions
Modern Industrial Economy
5th largest in world (and second largest in the course)
1995-2004 highest level of labor productivity in course after Sweden (but below USA)
Import most petroleum & food
Although export dairy, wheat & wine, world's second largest exporter of commercial services
Per capita GDP – 2002
In course above Italy and Germany and below the other 3
Human development index the same
Percentage of population with secondary education second lowest in course
Above only Italy
Economic Context
One of most regulated economies in western world
Relies on planning more than other western governments
Non‑compulsory plans with financial incentives for compliance
Much state ownership
Despite program of privatization going on
e.g. Renault the largest auto maker, Air France
Government employs about 1/5 of the non‑agricultural labor force
2003 highest tax burden in course after Sweden
Taxation and government spending both about 50% GDP compared to US at about 30%
Social benefits include
2nd lowest rate of child poverty in the course after Sweden
About 1/3 US level
Revolution of 1789
Gave concept of revolution as way to induce change certain respectability
French love to put up barricades
1871 Paris Commune
Opened a wider breach in social classes than exists in US or even the UK
Employers extremely anti‑union and paternalistic
Master in my own house
Unions external intruders
Corruption – Index
Second most corrupt country in course after Italy
Still among less corrupt nations on earth
Reflect ideological divisions of international labor movement
But more evident and exaggerated in France than anywhere else
Remain highly ideological and political
Reflects Scoville approach
Characteristics established early in the history of unions and carried forward
Legacy of syndicalism
Reluctance to have anything to do with capitalist employer or capitalist state
Tendency to oppose bargaining
Viewed as collusion with capitalists
Prefer pressure to force unilateral concessions
Perhaps 9% overall
Down by half 1975
Seems to have stopped downward trend and stabilized since late 1990s
Disproportionately public sector
Teachers only group in country well over 50% organized
FEN, teachers union was largest in the country (and independent of all federations)
Split in 1992 with more moderate leaders of FEN remaining dominant among primary teachers
More radical group calling itself FSU became dominant among secondary teachers
Influence much greater than membership would indicate
Because unions play formal role in administration of unemployment system, retirement system, vocational training, etc.
Also because they negotiate many of these issues with employers and then see the results enacted into law
Low dues but still few members fully financial
So strike funds low & little staff or resources
French worker more likely to offer his life to his union than to pay it dues
Revolutionary organizations which don't bargain don't need large bureaucracies
Law contributes to this situation
Employer opposition
Despite illegality of discrimination, employees fear joining will cost advancement or even their jobs
Union traditionally didn’t need majority status to have bargaining rights
Has been some recent change here giving unions with majority status veto rights over collective bargaining agreement which they never had before
Five sizable confederations
3 Principal ones - lost membership over 1980s and have bounced up and down since
Confederations typically claim many more than actual membership
Distinction between member and sympathizer unclear
Confederations consist of affiliated industrial federations
That is, unions for each industry
An industry may have one federation from each confederation so may have 3-5 competing unions
With some exceptions, confederations often have strong control over the affiliated industrial federations
These are almost all run from Paris offices with weak locals
Usually no paid representatives at plant or district level
Workers typically think of themselves as members of confederation rather than union (federation)
That is, joining union is making a political statement
Communist, Catholic, Socialist, anti-Communist Socialist
Oldest Confederation
Communists emerged from war with organization in tact and with solid resistance credentials Collaboration of most French employers and upper class cost them leadership role that the PCF took up
General secretary always on PCF Political Bureau
Non‑Communists influential at all levels, even some priests
Some affiliated unions, e.g. printers, with non‑Communist leadership
2003 About 800,000 active members
Down substantially since mid 1970s
Formed from 1947 split in CGT
This group opposed the dominant Communist leadership
Remains aggressively anti‑Communist
Since 1968 social democratic reformist but non-partisan
2003   280,000 members
Has been shrinking
French Democratic Labor Federation
Founded as French Confederation of Catholic Workers‑
Severed church ties in 1964
Support best measured by votes received in elections for labor tribunals.  Most recent was 2002
Note that their overall support is clearly much greater than their actual membership Majority has voted for union candidates despite union membership being only small minority of labor force
About 100,000 members
Both of these groups shrinking in size
Representative union status
Technical legal issue depending on several criteria especially independence from employers Gives these unions special rights in work places not dependent on the extent of their membership
All five major confederations are representative unions
Unions survive and remain important perhaps less due to bargaining than due their other roles Helping administer health insurance, family allowance, retirement system and labor tribunals
Personnel Delegates
Elected by all employees largely from union slates
But represent all employees, not the union
Chosen by all employees
Growing number of members non-union
Has the right to receive information and to be consulted on some decisions Their agreement is required in order to implement some economic decisions
Small employers can choose one
Can choose to have just works council or just personnel delegates
Union delegates‑ shop representatives
Union itself
Employers, unlike unions, almost completely unified on industrial‑relations policy
Almost all are organized, esp. large employers
Council National du Patronat Francaise ‑ Patronat
Little formal authority over affiliates but growing in some ways
Now engaging in some central negotiations over economic and social issues with union confederations
Not over wages or hours
1999 renamed as MEDEF
Movement of French Enterprises
Workplace worker representatives
All the ones we talked about earlier are legally protected from dismissal
Unemployment Insurance
System operated by an organization managed jointly by the employers and unions
Rulemaking‑ Public Policy
Very high level of Government mandated benefits ‑ Tends to limit scope of bargaining
35 hour week since 2000
Has to be implemented by collective bargaining agreements
Unions actually objected to the 35-hour law since it allowed employers to introduce more flexible working hours and it involved a temporary pay freeze for many workers
Employers fiercely opposed to 35 hours and have lobbied hard to rescind it
Law has already been amended to reduce its impact on small employers with fewer than 20 employees
Government has also proposed letting the parties agree to longer hours in collective bargaining
Limits on hours apply to managers as well
Labor inspectorate raids employers looking for managers working extra hours without adequate records or overtime pay
Limit on annual overtime of 180 hours
Government is hoping to raise this to 220 in 2005
11 paid holidays
More holiday and vacation time than any country in course but Germany
Overall second lowest annual hours of work in the course after Germany
Retirement at age 60
Has created real pension problems for government which is looking for ways to reduce costs
Very tight controls on ability of employer to layoff employees
Can only be used as last resort
Must be negotiated with the Works Council and if no agreement must be submitted to arbitration Often not allowed but when layoffs are allowed they are usually accompanied by generous severance provisions 2005 government legislated to make it easier to layoff employees during their first two years
Others include sickness, maternity, severance, family allowances, unfair dismissal, and minimum wage Minimum wage indexed to inflation and much higher than US minimum wage
Regulation of Bargaining
Many major statutes
Collective bargaining agreements cover nonunionists
Law now lets government extend agreement beyond industry or area
Has weakened bargaining by bringing employees benefits at no cost
Since 1978 only one representative union needs to sign agreement for validity
Recent change to allow other representative unions to veto the agreement if they have a majority on the Works Council or among the Personnel Delegates
Requires all companies with more than 50 employees to establish works councils
But probably over half have not
No good faith obligation at any level
However, via Works Councils employees have a legal right to have a say in the organization of work and working conditions
FO believes in upholding agreements but to CGT and previously CFDT they are just temporary truce in continuing struggle.
Union's job is to press demands & not to become agent guarding agreement and in disciplining workers
In general union plays little role in day‑to‑day plant activities
Remember at this level union representatives have only observer status
Industry-wide Bargaining
Core of French bargaining remains industry‑wide agreements
Summit Bargaining
Between MEDEF and Labor Confederations
Discuss unemployment compensation, retirement, apprenticeship and training
Agreements on these issues often enacted into law
2004 agreement designed to reduce gender disparities
These have gotten worse in France since the 1970s
France has the second worst record in the course after Italy on gender equality at work
Negotiated wages matter little since actual wages above negotiated level
Remember industry-wide negotiated wages are minima
Highest employment costs in the course
Higher than USA
Lots of strikes but most very short, hit and run tactics
Quite common to call one-day demonstration strikes to protest variety of government policies
e.g. Teachers usually strike first day of school
1999-2000 lots of strikes over implementation of 35-hour week
2003 lots of strikes over government planned pension reforms
2004 lots of strikes over government planned health care reforms
Work to rule, etc., and other tactics that are considered strikes here
"La greve" means limited stoppage. "Greve illimitee"
Strikes less designed to create economic pressure than to display militance for internal consumption and to win public support Usually not initiated by union in connection with bargaining demands
Basic characteristic of French strikes is spontaneity.  Strikes over industrial issues but content largely symbolic and ideological
Truck drivers often blockade the roads
March 1979, CGT steelworkers strike, one group occupied Notre Dame and rang the cathedral's bells while they hung a CGT banner across the towers
Began as student revolt but soon spread to workers
With CGT, CFDT, FO, and FEN all calling for National general strike
At its peak, 10 million on strike and engaged in sit‑downs bringing economy to complete halt
This was several times total union membership
Work time lost increasingly concentrated in public sector
Now almost half of total
Began November 24 on railroads
Rail workers protesting proposed cuts in rail service and retirement and welfare systems
At peak country near standstill and over 1/3 of civil servants on strike
Strikers included subway workers, electricity workers, telephone workers, hospital workers, doctors, teachers, flight attendants, air traffic controllers and dock workers
December 2001 Euro strike
One day strike by bank and other employees demanding extra pay for work associated with introduction of the Euro
December 2001 Air Traffic Controllers
36 hour strike to protest EU plan for a unified European air traffic control system
February-March 2003 pension strikes
Week of rolling strikes to protest pension cuts
Police fired tear gas at protesting fire fighters
March 2004 strike by researchers
Researchers at universities and government research organizations struck over pay and benefits
Strike won broad public support and several concessions from government
January 2005 public service strike
1 day strike protesting pay, pension reforms, job cuts, and plans to ease the 35-hour week requirement
October 4, 2005 nationwide protest strike
Protesting variety of government policies
Personnel Delegates - Their job to present individual and collective complaints
Remember these are not union representatives
Can be grievance or alleged legal violation
Can call in Government Labor Inspector in case of disagreement (BLW)
Shop representatives ‑ represent union but have only observer status
Presence of personnel delegates, unions, and works councils, all at plant level, creates duplication and confusion over how to deal with grievances
State has effectively weakened unions
Extending agreements
Enacting substantive rules
Outlawing union shop