1 – Irregular violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

France

The ITUC affiliates in France are the Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT), the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens (CFTC), the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), the Confédération Générale du Travail - Force Ouvrière (CGT-FO) and the Union Interprofessionnelle de la Réunion (UIR-CFDT).

In practice

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Criminalisation of trade union action25-09-2015

Although the outbreak of trouble during labour disputes is increasingly rare, trade unions are witnessing a rise in the criminalisation of their actions. The sporadic, spur-of-the-moment incidents arising here and there are met with legal prosecution and are often severely punished. Although the trade union leaderships by no means endorse such acts, which invariably arise within a context of serious attacks on social and labour rights, they point out that such incidents are highlighted, to stigmatise and discredit the trade union movement, as illustrated in the three cases below.

Firstly, on 23 September 2015, five members of CGT-Énergie appeared before a criminal court in Paris for “obstructing the freedom to work”. In 2008, they had occupied an EDF (Electricité de France) plant along with 200 other employees to contest the dismissal of an employee who was “guilty” of having given evidence within the framework of a workplace accident that the company was trying to conceal. In the verdict delivered on 12 January, two of the defendants – including the general secretary of CGT-Énergie Paris, Cédric Liechti – were ordered to pay fines.

Then, on 12 October, six Air France employees were arrested and held in police custody for “acts of violence” during a demonstration on 5 October at the airline company’s headquarters in Roissy. The company also initiated disciplinary proceedings against some 20 workers. Appalled by the announcement of a restructuring plan involving 2,900 redundancies, the employees stormed a central works council works council 1. A body elected to represent the interests of workers within a workplace through communication and consultation with the employer e.g. concerning working conditions and health and safety issues. 2. A joint council composed of representatives of both workers and the employer for workplace-level discussions on matters of common interest. meeting. Two executives and three security guards were allegedly manhandled. The Air France inter-trade union committee denounced “a mockery of justice”, and demanded that the criminal charges and the disciplinary measures be dropped. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) supported the unions.

Finally, on 12 January 2016, a court sentenced eight former workers from the Goodyear plant in Amiens to 24 months’ imprisonment, including nine to be served behind bars, for “hostage-taking”. The eight trade unionists had detained two plant managers for thirty hours, in January 2014, in protest at the closure of the site, which took place a few days later. The defence lawyer pleaded, to no avail, an “outburst of rage”, in reaction to the management team’s refusal to respond to the social distress being suffered by the 1,142 employees of Goodyear in Amiens. A petition calling for the quashing of the court decision, which is being appealed, gathered over 1,665,000 signatures. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the ITUC took part in this mobilisation.

Illegal use of temporary staff during strike, trade union representative dismissed01-02-2016

In February 2016, Frédéric Willemain, CGT trade union representative at temporary employment agency Start People, was suspended. The company has initiated the procedure to dismiss him on grounds of gross misconduct. He is accused of having prevented temporary employees from entering the Post Office of Rivesaltes (Pyrénées-Orientales), on 16 December 2015, and of having assaulted the director of the Post Office, which the trade unionist firmly denies. The CGT had sent him there to support the Post Office workers on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
and to inform the temporary employees, illegally hired to replace them, of their rights. A labour inspectorate inquiry had, moreover, acknowledged the illegal use of temporary workers to replace strikers.

Right to strike violated at Sodexo and ID Logistics25-11-2015

On 25 November 2015, the management at the central canteen of Sodexo in Marseille suspended 23 delivery drivers, who were on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
at the time, for “abandoning their posts” and “gross misconduct”. After two days of strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action, an agreement ending the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
was concluded between the management and the majority of the workplace representatives. These 23 employers had, however, denounced the agreement, considering the wage concessions they had been granted to be totally inadequate. Despite having been informed that the 23 workers were continuing with the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, Sodexo’s regional director did not hesitate to sack them. By mid-December, 19 of them had received their letter of dismissal, and the other four had been rehired on the condition that they withdraw support for the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. In January 2016, amid the media uproar and the announcement of renewed protest actions, the management of Sodexo France negotiated an agreement directly with the CGT to end the dispute and to reinstate 11 of the 19 strikers.

On 17 December 2015, police broke up a picket line organised by the inter-union grouping CFDT, CGT, FO and CFTC in protest at the undermining of the bonus scheme at ID Logistics in Lisse in the department of Essonne. Meanwhile, the employer initiated the procedure to dismiss 35 of the strikers, including 11 trade union representatives

Staff and trade union activities spied on by Orpea13-01-2015

On 13 January, the justice system opened an inquiry into Orpea’s surveillance of its employees, following a complaint by the CGT in December 2014. The Franco-Canadian group managing clinics and retirement homes, one of the world’s biggest in this sector, had hired Groupe Synergie Globale (GSG) to spy on staff at three clinics in 2010. The mission, officially to provide “social risk management advice”, was given to three fake employees who infiltrated three clinics for over a year, to inform the management about the social climate in general and, in particular, the actions and movements of the trade unionists. One of these “moles” managed to secure election as a CGT representative. He took part in trade union meetings and even served on a working committee of the CGT’s health and social action federation Fédération de la Santé et de l’Action Sociale.
Following the discovery of the surveillance operation, Orpea proceeded to make all manner of concessions to the CGT to avoid legal proceedings, which, in 2014, the latter refused to accept. The same staff surveillance methods have also been used at Ikea
.

Discrimination and anti-union repression25-11-2015

In 2015, following legal proceedings lasting several years, the justice system condemned the national rail company SNCF and the Air Liquide group to pay heavy fines for discriminating against trade union members, be it in terms of pay or promotion. Agence France Presse (AFP) was also found guilty of discriminating against a member of the Syndicat National des Journalistes (SNJ-CGT), whose applications for promotion were repeatedly turned down without any explanation or objective cause. The case reflects a negative trend in France: trade union representatives are less likely to be promoted than their work colleagues and are paid ten per cent less, on average, than colleagues with the same characteristics (age, qualifications, years in service, etc. In addition, 40% of trade union representatives say their role has affected their career. Many employees, moreover, avoid joining a union for fear of reprisals. It should be noted that the new law on social dialogue social dialogue Discussion and co-operation between the social partners on matters of common interest, such as economic and social policy. Involves participation by the state where tripartism is practice. passed in 2015 includes provisions to prevent workers’ representatives from being “penalised in their careers”.

In August, Mediapart, an online media site, revealed that a human resources director at IT services giant Atos sent instructions to managers of the group regarding the filling of posts, asking them not to select trade union representatives, people aged over 55 and people with disabilities.

In its latest report, France’s Trade Union Discrimination and Repression Observatory covers the other facets of trade union repression: blackmail, intimidation, disciplinary action, harassment and dismissal. To quote a just a few examples, in September, McDonald’s was condemned, on appeal, for having dismissed a CGT representative who had taken part in trade union training during working hours. His request for leave had not been accepted. McDonald’s had dismissed him for arriving “two hours and 13 minutes” late. On 22 September, Julien Sanchez, mayor of Beaucaire (Gard), a member of the extreme-right party Front National, was condemned for hate speech targeting a trade unionist from the CGT. In mid December, 18 delivery drivers employed at the central canteen of Sodexo in Marseille were dismissed for abandoning their posts on 25 November, whilst they were striking for the second day in a row.

CGT general secretary faces disciplinary procedures linked to her trade union activities24-09-2013

Sylvie Delmas, general secretary of the CGT at Arcachon Hospital, was called to appear before the establishment’s disciplinary council in September. She was accused of “breaching confidentiality”, after denouncing problems at the hospital, despite the fact that the comments were made in her capacity as trade union representative and did not fall within the framework of her duty to observe professional secrecy.

Legal offensive against five trade unionists30-05-2013

Five CGT members from Roanne were convicted on 19 November 2012 of having written a slogan on a wall during the pension reform dispute in 2010. They were found guilty but exempted from punishment. The five men refused to give the DNA samples taken from criminal offenders for the Automated National File of Genetic Prints (FNAEG).
Two of them were subsequently driven to the police station and placed in custody on 23 May 2013 to force them to provide DNA samples, which they once again refused to give.
The three other trade unionists went to the police station on their own initiative but also refused to provide DNA samples.
The five CGT members were summoned to appear for a hearing at the Court of Roanne on 5 November. Refusing to give a biological sample constitutes a crime punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a 15,000 euro fine.
The Justice Minister had, nonetheless, committed to revising Article 706-56 of the Penal Procedure Code with a view to excluding those receiving convictions linked to trade union activities from the DNA file.

Anti-union discrimination regularly condemned by courts12-04-2011

Acts of anti-union discrimination anti-union discrimination Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

were punished by courts on several occasions during 2011. On 12 April, for example, the appeal court of Nîmes condemned computer company Dell to pay damages and interest to a CGT union representative for discrimination and moral harassment, based on “unjustified sanctions following any procedure with any trade union overtones, the comments made regarding the activities related to his trade union position, his physical sidelining combined with the suppression of all his tasks... conduct which constitutes harassment aimed at weakening working conditions in a way likely to affect rights and dignity”. Several court cases were won by union representatives, whose career development was deemed to have been clearly blocked on grounds of their union involvement by employers such as Wagon automobile, Renault, the Caisse générale de sécurité sociale (social security department) in Reunion and the Caisse primaire assurance maladie (public health insurance department).

Complaint to the ILO concerning abusive requisitioning at end of 201031-01-2011

In February, the Confédération générale du travail (CGT) lodged a complaint with the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Committee on Freedom of Association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
against the French government, following the requisitioning in the oil industry during the massive protests against the pension reform in October 2010. Trade unions had strongly criticised the government’s reaction to the protests at the time: its all-out refusal to negotiate, attempts to weaken the protest movement and abusive requisitioning of workers. The CGT estimated at 160 the number of striking workers requisitioned. The confederation pointed out that the authorities’ aim was not to ensure a minimum service minimum service The operations needed in a public or private establishment during a strike, normally to avoid compromising the life or basic needs of the population or causing irreversible damages.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
in an essential service but clearly to break a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. In November, the Committee on Freedom of Association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
requested the government “to ensure that, in future situations where a non-essential service is paralysed, but where measures to ensure a minimum service minimum service The operations needed in a public or private establishment during a strike, normally to avoid compromising the life or basic needs of the population or causing irreversible damages.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
could be justified, the workers’ and employers’ organsations concerned are involved in the decision-making process, and that measures are not imposed unilaterally”.

Representation issues15-01-2012

The new rules on representativeness approved by the two largest trade union centres, Confédération française démocratique du travail (CFDT) and Confédération générale du travail (CGT), have been contested by several unions, including the Confédération générale du travail-Force ouvrière (CGT-FO), which filed a complaint with the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
, alleging that the legislation concerning social democracy, passed in 2008, infringes freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
and the right to collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. Representativeness criteria based on voting strength has become mandatory, with the setting of representativeness thresholds of 10% of the votes for unions and representatives in elections at company or workplace level and 30% for collective agreements to be declared valid. The CGT-FO complaint refers to the criteria for the appointment of union representatives, the procedure to determine representativeness in the event of restructuring, the uncertainties during the transition period, the duration of the mandates and the constant electioneering that could undermine social dialogue social dialogue Discussion and co-operation between the social partners on matters of common interest, such as economic and social policy. Involves participation by the state where tripartism is practice. , which the law was designed to improve.

In November, the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Committee on Freedom of Association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
concluded by inviting the government to examine the possibility of revising the legislation with regard to the appointment of trade union representatives and to refer the examination of various other criticisms to the High Council for Social Dialogue social dialogue Discussion and co-operation between the social partners on matters of common interest, such as economic and social policy. Involves participation by the state where tripartism is practice. (HCDS), which is due to issue an opinion on the results of the assessment of union voting strength in 2013, at the end of the first electoral cycle after the legislation’s entry into force. As regards the representativeness thresholds, the committee considered them to be compatible with the principles of freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
.

Fear of reprisals a barrier to organising 31-12-2010

Despite the failure of the unions’ efforts to change the pension reforms, they did prove their great capacity to mobilise the population. According to analysts, the unions’ image has been improved by this crisis. The unions appear to the French to be more pragmatic than in the past. However the “fear of reprisals” is even greater than it was a few years ago, preventing workers from joining the unions.

Support grows in campaign for the regularisation of undocumented workers31-12-2010

Throughout the year undocumented workers in many towns organised strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
pickets and occupied public buildings or the premises of small enterprises to demand regularisation. Several local temporary employment agencies were occupied. Often they were evicted, sometimes brutally, following court orders. Support from trade unions and many associations had an impact in terms of government commitments on the criteria and procedures for the regularisation of undocumented workers. The national trade union centres are very attentive to the situation of migrant workers. Those who do not enjoy the protection that would come from having legal status are exposed to very low quality and low paid jobs. Their situation makes any trade union involvement particularly difficult, and therefore strongly impacts on their access to the rights guaranteed by ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Conventions 87 and 98.

Anti-union discrimination30-11-2008
Trade union activities controlled by two central police files16-10-2009

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).

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