Accueil » 42-1 ( 1987) » La loi et la négociation collective en France: réflexion sur l'expérience 1981-1985

La loi et la négociation collective en France: réflexion sur l'expérience 1981-1985

Yves Delamotte


Quatre ans après la loi Auroux touchant la negociation collective, l'auteur apprecie ses effets pratiques et s'interroge sur ses pouvoirs et ses limites lorsqu'elle cherche à agir sur les relations collectives du travail.


Four years after the adoption of the Auroux laws, the author evaluates the legislation's practical consequences in the areas of collective bargaining and time allocation.

The 1982 law on collective bargaining was aimed at stimulating such activities at the industry and above all the firm level, particularly regarding salaries and work time. The law was adopted, though, before government wage and price controls had come to an end.

On the salary question, it appears that the legislation did not stimulate collective bargaining on a sectorial level. These negotiations were complète and salary riders concluded, the established pattern set in — in conformity with government and management recommendations. Within the firm, where the legislation created an obligation for the employer to negotiate real salaries, an obvious development is noticeable. Firm-level negotiations, however, only made minor adjustments to sectorial agreements.

As regards time allocation and time reduction, sectorial agreements determined the form and results of the hours of work. It is in the area of firm-level collective bargaining that new approaches appeared most clearly. Nevertheless, it should be noted that agreements were so firm specifie that is probable that they could have been reached without reference to the legislation. Thus, collective agreements have evolved since 1982 in a framework clearly defined by the objectives and the recommendations of the government. The legislation certainly contributed to the development of collective bargaining, particularly at the firm-level. It did not create a power of negociation sufficient to validate agreements aimed at upgrading salary conditions to levels acceptable to central government bodies, as far as unions were concerned. Underlying these remarks, of course, are the economic context and union crisis felt in France as elsewhere. Concerning negotiations on time allocation and time reduction, they revealed an offensive strategy by firms preoccupied with creating a more flexible organization as regards work time and production. The legislation proposed certain formulas accepted by firms, but it was not the legislation requiring negotiation which was at the root of what happened — it was the strategy of the firms themselves. Moreover, it is probably this very strategy which is the most significant factor in the development of French industrial relations, making it possible, for example, to profit from the requirements of the legislation — turning a restraint into an advantage.