French Socialism and the Transformation of Industrial Relations since 1981

  • Chris Howell

Abstract

This chapter describes and explains the transformation that has taken place in French industrial relations during the Mitterrand era, and discusses some of the consequences for workers and trade unions in France. It will be argued that the nature of French industrial relations, or what I term labour regulation,2 characterized for the bulk of the post-war period by a heavy emphasis upon legislation, weak trade unions inside the firm, and very poorly-developed firm-level collective bargaining, has given way in the 1980s and 1990s to a more firm-centred system of industrial relations. There is a growing disjunction between highly politicized but weak national trade union federations on one hand, and more quiescent and autonomous enterprise unions, representing workers inside the firm but not beyond its boundaries, on the other. However, while labour is weak in the sense of having limited collective resources outside the firm, it is organized within the firm. The emerging form of labour regulation can be termed microcorporatism, because, in Wolfgang Streeck’s memorable phrase, it encourages ‘wildcat co-operation’, in the form of a firm-level bargain, akin to corporatism, in which wage and work flexibility is traded for job security.3 Labour regulation in France was particularly vulnerable to this mutation, and the Auroux reforms of the first Socialist government, allied to the economic conditions of the 1980s, and the transition from a Fordist to a post-Fordist economy (see Chapter 8) encouraged this shift.

Keywords

Migration Economic Crisis Europe Income OECD 

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Notes

  1. 3.
    Wolfgang Streeck, ‘Neo-Corporatist Industrial Relations and the Economic Crisis in West Germany,’ in John H. Goldthorpe, ed., Order and Conflict in Contemporary Capitalism ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984 ).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    George Ross, ‘Perils of Politics: French Unions and the Crisis of the 1970s’, in Peter Lange, Ross and Maurizio Vannicelli, Unions, Change and Crisis: French and Italian Union Strategy and the Political Economy, 1945–1980 ( New York: Allen and Unwin, 1982 ) p. 21.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    See Jane Marceau, Class and Status in France ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977 ) p. 26.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Pierre Dubois, Claude Durand and Sabine Erbès-Seguin, ‘The Contradictions of French Trade Unionism’, in Colin Crouch and Alessandro Pizzorno, eds., The Resurgence of Class Conflict in Western Europe since 1968, Vol. 1 ( New York: Holmes and Meier, 1978 ) p. 55.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    Jacques Delors, Changer ( Paris: Stock, 1975 ) p. 189.Google Scholar
  6. 16.
    David S. Bell and Byron Criddle vividly demonstrate the declining representation of workers and rising representation of the new middle class as one moves up the PS from membership to leadership positions. See The French Socialist Party ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984 ) p. 203.Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    Raymond Vatinet, ‘La Négociation au sein du comité d’entreprise’, Droit social, no. 11 (November 1982).Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    Raymond-Pierre Bodin, Les Lois Auroux dans les p.m.e. ( Paris: Documentation Française, 1987 ) p. 194.Google Scholar
  9. 31.
    Jean Auroux, Les Droits des travailleurs ( Paris: Documentation Française, 1981 ) p. 20.Google Scholar
  10. 35.
    Pierre Rosanvallon, La Question Syndicale ( Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1988 ) p. 139.Google Scholar
  11. 37.
    Elie Cohen, ‘Le “moment lois Auroux” ou la désublimation de l’économie’, Sociologie du travail, no. 3 (1986).Google Scholar
  12. 40.
    Pierre-Eric Tixier, ‘Management participatif et syndicalisme’, Sociologie du travail, no. 3 (1986) p. 367.Google Scholar
  13. 60.
    Michael J. Piore and Charles F. Sabel, The Second Industrial Divide (New York: Basic Books, 1984 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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  • Chris Howell

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