Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 13:39 GMT

2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - France

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - France, 9 June 2010, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
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.

Population: 62,300,000
Capital: Paris
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, although guaranteed under the Constitution, are restricted. A trade union centre has filed a complaint with the ILO concerning the law of 20 August 2008. The creation of police files containing information on trade union activity is considered a threat to trade union rights and freedoms. There are still many cases of anti-union discrimination.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association, collective bargaining and the right to strike are fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. While enterprise-level agreements cannot be less favourable for workers than higher-level agreements, "derogation clauses" introduced through amendments to the Labour Code in 2004 allow for the waiving of this principle in numerous instances. In the case of bodies financed primarily by public authorities, the entry into force of a collective agreement is subject to the approval of the authority in question. Certain types of strike action are prohibited, such as go-slows, sit-ins and work-to-rules. The Act passed on 21 August 2007 concerning public transport introduced a number of controversial clauses, such as requiring workers to give notice of their intention to take part in a strike 48 hours before it commences. In addition, as of day eight of a strike, workers can be called on, including by the employer, to vote whether the action should continue. Finally, in the absence of an agreement, to be signed by the end of the year, the employer is entitled to establish the minimum level of services to be provided during a strike.

The CGT-FO has filed a complaint with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, arguing that certain provisions of the law of 20 August 2008 contravene the principles of Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining. The CGT and the CFDT do not share the FO's view, considering the law of 20 August 2008 to be favourable to the development of social democracy in France and the legitimacy of the actors.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Migrant workers' situation: The CGT, CFDT, FO and the CFTC are very attentive to the plight of migrant workers in France. The confederations have serious concerns regarding France's current policy towards migrant workers in the country. Undocumented migrants, deprived of the protection available to those who are legal, are exposed to appalling working conditions and receive very low pay. Their situation makes any form of union involvement very difficult, seriously limiting their access to the guarantees provided by ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

Anti-union discrimination: Anti-union discrimination, following the transposition of European directives 2000/43 of 29 June 2000 and 2000/78 of 27 November 2000 into French law, is prohibited, in principle. In reality, there are numerous cases of anti-union discrimination every year, some of which are sanctioned by the courts.

Trade union activities controlled by two central police files: Two Decrees passed on 16 October 2009 have instituted two police files recording personal data, including information on trade union involvement. According to the CGT, CFDT, FO and CFTC, although the government had to withdraw its decision to place certain sensitive information on file, such as health profiles and sexual orientation, following mass trade union and popular protests, these files still constitute a serious threat to trade union rights and freedoms. According to Decree 2009-1250 of 16 October 2009, the administrative inquiries foreseen in the event of recruitment, appointment, authorisation, approval or accreditation relates to public and private employment in a wide range of areas (linked to state sovereignty, security or defence; competitions, bets and races; areas protected due to the nature of the activities conducted in them, such as nuclear power stations, airports, etc., jobs involving materials, products or activities posing a threat to public security). According to Article 3, the storage of data "contained in an inquiry report, related to any conduct incompatible with the exercise of the posts or missions envisaged, is authorised, even in the event that this conduct may have a political, religious, philosophical or trade union motive". The Decree concerning the prevention of threats to public security (Decree no. 2009-1249 of 16 October 2009), for its part, authorises the collection of supplementary information related to "political, philosophical, religious or trade union activities", with a view to preventing threats to public security. The periods for which the data collected under these decrees can be stored is limited to ten years, but are "sliding", as the starting date may be moved if new information is recorded in the file. Decree 2009-1250 provides for a right to information, but not the right to oppose or amend the content of the file. Citizens placed on file under the terms of Decree 2009-1249 have no right to information (on the fact that they are on file), no right to amend the content of the file, and no right of opposition (i.e. to refuse being on file).

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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