The Contradictions of French Trade Unionism

  • Pierre Dubois
  • Claude Durand
  • Sabine Erbès-Seguin


Among Western European nations, France occupies a somewhat special position which, if we refer to those criteria normally used to describe industrial societies, can be defined as a mixture of the archaic and the modern. There is much within French society that is the result of contrasting and irreconcilable forces. The fabric of industry covers both high-growth activities and others (of which there are a considerable number) which have not yet progressed beyond the nineteenth century. Industrial expansion in France has proved vigorous, its pace not slackening off to any significant extent until the end of 1974. This in itself is something almost unique in Europe, though it is in contrast to the stagnation of pre-war years. The activity rate is such that alongside one of the longest working weeks to be found in industrial countries exist some of the longest annual paid holidays, giving rise as they do to an almost complete month-long shutdown of industry. Like all forms of relationship in French society, occupational relations operate through successive periods of deadlock, marking the extreme divergence that exists between the two sides of industry: employers who at times consider themselves to be so ‘by divine right’, are often strongly anti-union, and embody in highly personalised form the power that they hold; and the workers, a large proportion of whom, along with both the main unions (the CGT and the CFDT), reject the type of society in which they are living and criticise the way in which it is developing.


Trade Union Plant Level Union Organisation Collective Agreement Occupational Training 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pierre Dubois
  • Claude Durand
  • Sabine Erbès-Seguin

There are no affiliations available

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