Accueil » 39-2 ( 1984) » Les lois Auroux

Les lois Auroux

Guy Caire


L'auteur expose les grandes lignes des changements profonds apportes au Code du travail français par les lois Auroux en 1982. Il explicite les motivations qui éclairent leur présentation ainsi que l'accueil qui leur a été fait.


A «Common Sense Revolution»: that is the way Jean Auroux described the corpus of new rules made public in 1982. In order to understand the nature of this revolution — the changes it included and the reactions it provoked — the rationnel behind these new rules must be examined. There are in fact three basic reasons for the changes. First, the Block-Laine Commission (established by Mitterand in May 1981) revealed the extent of social inequality, the failure of policies of participation, and the expansion of certain offensive management strategies, all of them affecting «individual work relations». The insufficiency of both representative institutions and the System of negotiation were also dealt with as problems affecting «collective work relations». Secondly, a comparative study had indicated that many of the features of the proposed Auroux legislation were to be found in other European IR Systems. Thirdly, the new legislation became logical in the light of the programme of the Left and the Socialist Manifeste The task facing the new Minister of Labour included putting together a logical programme and ensuring its application. The Auroux Report of September 1981 contained two fundamental concepts and four consequent series of measures. The first concept was that workers must be considered as fullfledged members of organizations. To accomplish this goal it would be necessary: to restore and enlarge workers' rights, to reconstitute the «work collectivity» by carefully regulating all exceptions to legislation (part-time and contractual work, work of limited duration, etc.). The second concept was that workers must be able to influence changes within organizations about decisions directly affecting them. The way to bring this about was to create a more meaningful role for representative institutions and reactivate an «active contractual policy». As a result, four essential series of measures were adopted, involving:

— restoring and enlarging workers' rights by reforming internal regulations and disciplinary law, as well as asserting the right of expression within organizations (Law of August 4, 1982);

— reconstituting the «work collectivity» by clarifying the aims, and limiting the use, of temporary work («Ordonnance» of February 5, 1982), the contract of limited duration («Ordonnance» of February 5, 1982), and part-time work («Ordonnance » of March 26, 1982), as well as improving the rights of and protections for the workers concerned;

— creating a more significant role for union and employee representative institutions (Law of October 28, 1982), and integrating occupational health and safety committees in future with commissions determining working conditions (Law of December 23, 1982);

— relaunching the «contractual policy» with annual compulsory negotiation of salaries and duration of work (Law of November 13, 1982). The debates of the Economie and Social Council revealed tensions threatening to produce ruptures in French society. Among them, the obligation to negotiate and the right of expression of workers within the organization particularly posed problems. Management clearly showed ideological opposition to the Auroux legislation, but found itself faced with an alternative: to do battle at the level of rules and regulations, or to turn the obstacles to its own advantage. If the CGT and CFDT, in spite of technical criticism, approved the new programme, the FO and CFTC were much more critical concerning the right of veto given to representative institutions and the right of expression.