Notes on staff representative bodies in France

Submitted by AWL on 27 January, 2015 - 12:01 Author: Olivier Delbeke

Notes on staff representative bodies in France (for Olivier Delbeke's article in Solidarity 351)

DP: Délégués du personnel, staff delegates. They are elected in workplaces by workers where more than 11 workers are employed. These delegates present monthly dossiers of demands of workers in the workplace. It is one of the advances won in the general strike of June 1936. NAOs, or Annual Obligatory Negotiations also exist, where pay and qualifications are discussed.

CE: Comités d’entreprise, works councils, created in 1945. These committees can sometimes be controlled by bosses where there is no union, or only a weak union, but in general, where there is a union, they allow workers to keep an eye on management. Macron wants to re-establish “business confidentiality” and to permit bosses to carry on their business in secret. CEs are elected by workers in workplaces employing more than 50 people. Macron wants to make the threshold for electing these much higher, which would lead to the disappearance of all elected workers’ representation in most French workplaces.

Beyond representative institutions, there will also be an attack against the grassroots union organisations in workplaces by shackling the freedom to organise. The enemy is clearly targeted: the grassroots delegate who does his job and defends his colleagues, the section of a workplace that calls for a strike to get what it wants. Ultimately, the aim is to eradicate the self-respecting, rebellious spirit which is shared by many workers across the country, who don’t back down when they are exploited or sacked.

CHSCT : Comités d’Hygiène, de Sécurité et des Conditions de travail, Health, Safety and Work Conditions Committees look at working conditions and take measures to prevent accidents at work or health hazards. CHSCTs were widely inaugurated after the Auroux laws of 1982. Macron wants to fuse the CEs with the CHSCTs in small workplaces, which would lead to a weakening or a disappearance of this activity which protects workers, and it would give bosses free rein to do whatever they liked.

Prud’homale employee claims courts: Prud’hommes are workplace tribunals made up of judges appointed by employers and unions, who are elected from their respective colleges. In a country where unions are absent from many workplaces, these tribunals deal with individual cases regarding labour law, and they play a substantial role in favour of workers. Macron wants to bring them to heel by placing them under the oversight of professional judges and the government has already slashed funding for these courts, hampering their operation. Elections of workers’ representatives to the Prud’hommes courts have been sabotaged by rightwing governments since 2002 and the Hollande government has done everything it can to postpone these elections, which amounts to suppressing them.

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