35-hour work week will be officially in rigour as of January 1st
2002. Companies operating in France
are faced with difficulties regarding aid and training applications vis-à-vis
the law. Some of these same
companies are also experiencing difficulties implementing legislation-based
negotiation methods. These methods are to be applied to salaried workers, many of
whom are trade union members.
its origins, the 35-hour work week was introduced as a means to combat rises in
unemployment and create jobs. Shorter
hours for salaried employees are meant to provide more jobs while sustaining
levels of productivity. The current
mayor of Lille, and once Labour Minister for the French government, Martine
Aubry, lobbied incessantly to promote the 35-hour work week.
The shorter work week (the work week was previously shortened under
President François Mitterand to 39 hours)
proposed by the leftist-leaning government in June 1997 has triggered
vivacious debate on all sides of the political spectrum.
The proposal for the 35-hour work
week was voted into law June 13th 1998.
Repercussions were felt throughout the French political establishment.
The law remains highly controversial, both in France and abroad.
One of the most vigorous opponents is the MEDEF (Movement des Entreprises de France) whose leader, Ernest-Antoine
Sellière, advocates less stringent legal frameworks for business.
aid for companies
subsidies are available for qualified companies(1) to be used to cover expenses
in implementing the new 35-hour scheme. However,
the negotiation mechanisms set in place represent a double-edged sword for
Companies which effectively
negotiate an agreement with trade unions and follow judicial procedure(2) can
qualify for government aid in the form off subsidies and tax breaks.
Companies which do not receive high levels of co-operation from unions
can be disqualified from receiving funds(3).
11(4) of French labour law states that part of the time gained for employers
from shortening work hours must be used for training purposes for workers.
Training should be for professional or personal development of the
employee according to the law.
Only the final text (out of a
total of 17) in Article 11 concerns consent from the employee. Can the salaried worker refuse training that takes place
outside of the 35 hour work week? The
answer to the question has sparked debate from trade unions in order to define
“training” under new legislation linked to the shorter work week.
The 35-hour work week was introduced as
a means for sustaining employment and creating jobs in France.
The laws governing the 35-hour work week continue to evoke conflicting
viewpoints concerning government aid for employers and training.
Greater harmonization is required
between aid mechanisms’ applicability and trade union policy. Open dialog is essential along with less government
interference and more flexibility in employer/union relations.
Steps must also be taken at the
legislative level in order to provide clear definitions for training and its
implications for employers and workers. The
establishment of accepted norms and best practices will steer policies once the
final stages of the 35-hour work week are put into place.
with over 20 salaried workers require employees to take part in the 35-hour work
week as of 1st January 2001. As
of 1st January 2002 the 35-hour work week is mandatory for all
companies operating in France.
in French labour law concerning “negotiation development”(3) whereby
companies must receive majority votes in favour of 35-hour work week union
conventions. Member of personnel
are consulted by direct vote if no majority vote is possible.
Frédéric, “les Ambiguïtés demeurent sur les 35 heures, Le
Monde (Edition électronique), July 5th 1999, Paris.
de loi relatif à la rédaction négociée du temps de travail.
By: Robert Lewis