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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ce que les syndicats refusent

by P. M.

What the French Trade Unions Are Rejecting

Translated Thursday 17 January 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

The four points that the trade unions dispute are essential for the employers.

Trial period. The employers propose to set up a trial period for everyone, lasting from three months for factory workers to six months for executives, renewable on a one-time basis and regulated by an industry-wide contract or by a contract with a company. The trade unions demand that renewal be dependent on an industrial agreement and no longer on an inter-industry basis. They remain opposed to doubling the length of trial periods and above all to the possibility of lengthening the trial period through a contract with a company. “The CFDT is not going to sign a test that establishes a length of time at the inter-industry level and allows a company to get around it with a contract,” commented Marcel Grignard.

Compensation for ending a job contract. The proposed text would create a single, inter-industry payment in compensation for ending a job contract. The bosses want to institute a minimum and maximum payment, which the trade unions reject because they want the judge to be able to decide on the amount of compensation.

Open ended job contract for a mission. First entitled an “open-ended job contract for the realization of a precise purpose,” and now called an “open-ended job contract for the realization of a planned purpose,” this measure is one of the big stumbling blocks. Its a new job contract which lasts as long as the mission (more than 18 months) and which includes a clause terminating the contract as soon as the mission is accomplished. The trade unions reject a contract that can be terminated without the employer having to state a “real and serious cause.” Some trade unions denounce an attempt to slip the “single job contract” back in through the back door. “Today, there’s nothing to prevent employers offering this kind of open-ended job contract to all of a firm’s employees,” as Alain Lecanu of the CGC trade union points out regretfully.
The trade unions did not initiate this job contract, but they are negotiating for it to be changed into a fixed-term job contract for executives only, whose branches decide the job categories to which it applies and who cost a lot of money when their contracts are terminated.

Uncontested termination. Entitled “contractual termination,” this is meant to be a way of ending a job contract halfway between resignation and a layoff, and is supposed to be the result of mutual agreement. The employers are demanding official recognition by a representative of the state, the director of work in the département (the French equivalent of a county). The trade unions feel that it should be up to the labor court judge to check if the agreement is arrived at freely. For the FO trade union, “we won’t sign the text otherwise,” Stéphane Lardy explained.

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