The social partners represented in these bodies may assess whether or not the Government`s proposals are in conformity with the collective agreement concerned and, if so, give their opinion. Observers made a number of statements, two of which were particularly important. First, French unions are weak in terms of membership, but well present in the workplace, and union membership is often closely linked to union participation. Elsewhere, nearly one in five French trade unionists is an active employee representative. Second, virtually all collective agreements are extended to the entire sector, resulting in a very high coverage rate of over 90%, inviting workers to „break free“ by enjoying the benefits negotiated by the unions without having to commit to joining a union. The employment contract of an employee on sick leave is considered suspended. Absence due to illness cannot be the basis for dismissal. However, in the event of prolonged or repeated leave, the employer may be entitled (under certain conditions) to terminate the employment contract on the grounds that the employee`s absence hinders the proper functioning of the company and that the company is therefore obliged to replace him permanently. The employee continues to receive his salary during his absence if he meets certain conditions provided for by the Labour Code or in the applicable collective agreement, if it is more favourable. During illness, after a grace period of three days, salaries are paid by the national health insurance. If you would like to learn more about collective agreements in French or any other related topic, please check out our electronic magazine on French payroll. The decentralization of collective bargaining leads to very little coordination of wage bargaining.
The social partners at company level have significant autonomy in negotiating wage developments, as only minimum rates are negotiated at sectoral level. In many industries, negotiated minimum wages are still below the legal minimum wage, which must be respected. There is little horizontal coordination. Not surprisingly, it is often the mandatory issues that dominate negotiations at this level. The 2017 collective bargaining report found that of the 1,094 agreements signed this year, 480 covered wages, 169 covered gender equality, 52 covered working conditions, health and safety, and 153 covered vocational training. Other issues addressed in the agreements signed in 2017 included the negotiation of agreements (319), the conditions under which the agreements were to be implemented (188), premiums (163), supplementary pensions and health insurance (128) and employment contracts (86). Each agreement can cover several topics, which explains why the total number of topics covered is more than 1,094.  Collective agreements can be concluded at all levels: enterprises; group of companies; economic and social unity; installation; industrial sector; and in all sectors, etc. Collective bargaining can take place at three levels: at the national level for all workers in the private sector; at sectoral level, which may include national, regional or local collective bargaining; and at the enterprise or factory level.
There is no clear trend, but wage bargaining activity peaks at the beginning and end of the year and in the months leading up to the French summer holidays in August. Minimum wage: The wage paid by the employer must not be lower than the national minimum wage (SMIC). In 2019, the gross monthly SMIC for a 35-hour week was €1,521.25. The collective agreement applicable to the employment contract may also set a minimum wage, which depends on the classification of the employee provided for in the applicable collective bargaining. Social code, sectoral collective agreements (if any) A collective agreement is mandatory in 2 situations: as at the national level, sectoral agreements must have been signed by unions with at least 30% support in the sector and must not be rejected by unions with more than 50% support to be valid. Ministry of Labour, Directorate General of Labour (DGT) (2018), Collective bargaining in 2017, DARES, Paris. The reform of collective bargaining in the public sector initiated by the law of July 2011 changes the way in which the representativeness of trade unions in the public sector is assessed, in accordance with the rules already in force in the private sector since 2008. Since this legislation, company elections have determined the extent to which trade unions can be involved in negotiations, sign agreements and occupy seats in tripartite advisory bodies. There will often be several agreements covering different aspects of the terms and conditions of the same industry group (see the section on the subject of negotiations below). As a result, the Ministry of Labour`s annual report on collective bargaining still shows a higher number of sectoral agreements than sectoral groupings. The 2017 report shows that by the end of March 2018, 1,094 industrial agreements of various types had been signed for this year, and more are expected to be registered after that date. Of these 480 were for wages and salaries, although in some cases more than one wage increase was linked to the same main agreement. Of the 299 sector agreements identified as 5,000 or more employees in 2017, four in five (81%) had at least one compensation agreement in 2017. The state continues to play a crucial role in French industrial relations. The system is highly regulated, the government sets the minimum wage and the Ministry of Labour extends virtually all collective agreements, and more and more issues are subject to mandatory negotiations at the sector or company level. The French legal working time is 35 hours per week. With the „Aubry laws“ of 1998 and 2000, the legal weekly working time was reduced by 2000 for all companies with more than 20 employees and by 2002 for small companies from 39 to 35 hours. All French companies negotiated reductions in working hours between 2000 and 2004. The law provides for various flexible provisions under which companies can deviate (within borders) from certain provisions of the working time legislation, provided that these settlements are negotiated and organized through collective bargaining. This applies, for example, to the annual calculation of overtime, if the agreement provides for an annual adjustment of working time, or to the calculation of the working time of managers according to the working days worked during the year (Boulin & Cette, 2008). Since 23 September 2017, the terms of a collective agreement automatically take precedence over employment contracts. However, workers may refuse to apply the provisions of a new collective agreement. To that end, he must inform his employer within one month of the date on which the employer announces the existence and content of the agreement.
This refusal may result in the termination of the employee`s employment contract. The 2017 collective bargaining report shows that most of the documents setting out the terms and conditions at company level have been agreed with the unions. Out of a total of 61,391 texts filed with regional government agencies, 52.6% were signed by union delegates or persons appointed by trade unions, 9.4% were signed by elected representatives of the company, 20.9% were approved in a workers` vote (mainly with regard to workers` savings plans, where an agreement is usually needed to set up such a system) and 17.2% were the result. unilateral decisions by the employer.  These figures do not reflect the legislative changes introduced in September 2017. The framework of collective bargaining has been significantly modified in recent years by a series of legal measures, with important pieces of legislation introduced in May 2004, January 2007, August 2008, June 2013, August 2016 and more recently in September 2017 (the Macron Ordinances). Overall, these changes have steadily increased the importance of agreements at the enterprise level at the expense of negotiations at the industry level, as well as the tightening and clarification of rules on who is allowed to negotiate and under what circumstances agreements are valid. .