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France  France

Key Facts

Population64,716,000
Collective Bargaining Coverage 98%
Proportion of Employees in Unions 8%
Principal Level of Collective Bargaining

industry and company

Workplace Representation

union and works council/employee delegates – but union normally dominates if present

Board-level Representation

yes: state-owned and private companies

Company Board Structure

monistic or dualistic (choice)

Sources: see individual country sections; where a range of figures has been quoted, the lower number has been taken

Trade Unions

In membership terms the French trade union movement is one of the weakest in Europe with only 8% of employees in unions. It is divided into a number of rival confederations, competing for membership. (The main confederations are the CGT, CFDT, FO, CFTC and CFE-CGC.) But despite low membership and apparent division French trade unions have strong support in elections for employee representatives and are able to mobilise French workers to great effect.

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Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining takes place at national, industry and company level and at each level there are detailed rules about who can negotiate and the requirements for an agreement to be valid. Industry level agreements are the most important level for negotiation in terms of numbers covered, although the rates they set are generally well below what is actually paid.

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Workplace Representation

France has a complex system of employee representation at workplace level, through both the unions and structures directly elected by the whole of the workforce. Where trade unions are present, the key figure will be the trade union delegate.

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Board-level Representation

Legislation passed in 2013 greatly extended the range of companies covered by the obligation to have employee representatives at board level, and it has been extended again in 2015. As well as state-owned companies which were previously covered, large private companies must in future also have at least one employee representative at board level. This is in addition to representatives of employees holding shares and employee representatives who can be present at board meetings, but are not board members.

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European-level Representation

European representatives from France – for both European Works Councils and European Company bodies – are appointed by the unions. The exception is board level representatives in a European Company, where the representative body decides how they should be chosen.

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Health and Safety Representation

Employee representatives on the health and safety committee are the key channel providing an input from employees in this area. The committee must be consulted in on a wide range of issues and in certain circumstances it also has the right to bring in an outside expert, paid by the employer.

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Financial Participation

France can look back at a long tradition of employee financial participation. France is one of the leaders in the incidence of participation schemes in Europe. State support for employee financial participation is stronger than in other European countries. Companies with 50 employees or more are required by law to offer a profit-sharing scheme.

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