Can members of the far Right be elected to industrial tribunals ?

Download article in original language : FR9703133NFR.DOC

Prior to the election of industrial tribunal members in December 1997, five trade union confederations have requested an overhaul of the voting system in order to prevent the election of judges from the far Right.

Industrial tribunal s (conseils de prud'hommes) are courts where judges are elected from among those coming under their jurisdiction, principally employers and employees who are linked by an employment contract and who do not belong to the civil service. The election of judges by employees is considered as a test of the influence of the various trade unions.

The ballot is a one-round list-system election and is open to all. Thus, the election of members who openly support the policies of the far-Right National Front (Front National) party, which obtained 15% of the vote in the 1995 Presidential elections, is entirely possible. Furthermore, coalitions of non-affiliated unions have decided to stand and could contribute to the weakening of the trade union confederations, the CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail), the CGT-FO (Force Ouvrière), the CFTC (Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens), the CFDT (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail), the CFE-CGC (Confédération Française de l'Encadrement-Confédération Générale des Cadres). In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, the five confederations have requested the organisation of a first round reserved solely for "those organisations with nationwide power of representation", and a second round open to the whole spectrum of candidates.

The Government rejected this proposal, referring to the likely unconstitutional nature of such a reform. In 1982, the Constitutional Court, ruling on a different election, had in effect pointed out that a law could "not reserve the right to stand for election" to organisations represented at national level, if it concerned the election of judges. Jacques Barrot, the present Minister of Employment, stated that it was the responsibility of the trade union confederations themselves to "prove that they should take precedence". In response to these remarks, the union confederations denounced the Government for giving the far Right the opportunity to make inroads into the field of employment.

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