Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 15:40 GMT

The Global State of Workers' Rights - France

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 31 August 2010
Cite as Freedom House, The Global State of Workers' Rights - France, 31 August 2010, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Workers' right to organize in unions is protected, and trade unions remain strong, although membership has declined over the past two decades. Trade unions can operate without interference or control by the government and political parties, but union federations are often aligned with parties of the left. Workers do not face pressure by the government or employers to join or not to join certain trade unions. Strikes are a constitutional right with minimal regulation, and they occur frequently. Nevertheless, some employers attempt to weaken trade union activity through tactics such as dividing enterprises into smaller units or outsourcing. Antiunion propaganda in large enterprises can be a problem. A 2007 law on ground-based public transit imposes strike restrictions that have been criticized by the International Labour Organization.

Employers are legally obliged to engage in collective bargaining on a range of issues if the enterprise is unionized, and collective-bargaining agreements are honored in practice. However, 2004 amendments to the labor code allow an enterprise-level agreement to remove rights that had been granted under a sector-level agreement, a change that was condemned by unions. Employers also use various techniques to avoid collective bargaining, such as negotiations with unrepresentative trade unions. Trade union leaders have reported discrimination and generally bring the cases to court. Professional organizations, including business associations, are allowed to operate freely and without government interference.

The country's eight major unions participated in a general strike in Paris in March 2009 to protest layoffs, tax cuts for the rich, and the current minimum wage. In Martinique and Guadeloupe, which are French departments equal in status to those in mainland France, major protests took place in early 2009. Local unions led a month-long general strike over the cost of living, although the grievances also included tensions between the black majority and the white elite. French riot police were sent in after armed youths killed one union leader. Ultimately the unions struck a deal with the government.

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