New law promotes job mobility of civil servants

A law adopted in July 2009 promotes occupational mobility in the civil service by consolidating possibilities of secondment, outplacement and integration of civil servants in jobs unrelated to their previous position. It also increases possibilities to combine part-time jobs, use temporary agency staff, as well as recruit employees under private law employment contracts. Trade unions have denounced this process of rendering public jobs more flexible.

On 23 July 2009, the French parliament (Assemblée nationale) adopted a law on mobility and career paths in the civil service. The law aims to promote the mobility of civil servants, whose departments are being reorganised, and also to make staff management easier. It is thus part of the process of the general revision of public policies (Révision générale des politiques publiques, RGPP) launched by the government in July 2007. The law aims to increase the performance of public services through a general process of reorganisation. It has already led to the restructuring of certain government ministries (such as the ministries of finance and labour, social relations, family affairs, solidarity and urban affairs) (FR0904039I) and public establishments (such as the meteorological office Météo France). At the same time, the government has confirmed the rule of not replacing half of all civil servants who retire by 2013.

Greater flexibility of staff management

The main measure of the new law aims to promote geographical and occupational mobility of civil servants, especially those whose position is abolished or changed by the RGPP. The workers concerned are placed in a ‘situation of occupational reorientation’. After drawing up an occupational plan with their line managers, these staff members have to engage in ‘occupational guidance, training and validation of work-derived experience’ (validation des acquis de l’expérience, VAE) (FR0404NU04). Their department must propose redeployment solutions in line with their pay grade and personal career plans. These proposals must take into account where the worker lives, as well as their family situation. If three proposals are refused, the civil servant concerned can be placed in non-active status (disponibilité) and thus lose their pay, or can be forced to retire.

The law also provides for increasing possibilities for civil servants to combine part-time jobs and for making it easier to recruit staff on private law employment contracts – that is, without civil service status. Moreover, the law extends the recruitment of temporary agency staff to the national civil service and local authorities – this option was previously only possible in public service hospitals.

New system for assessing civil and public servants

Until the introduction of the new law, occupational assessment of civil and public servants was based on a complex system of rating (notation). The law provides for the general introduction of interviews that have already been tested in several ministries. During annual interviews, civil servants will be assessed by their line manager regarding their skills, occupational value and career prospects. The line manager must then compile a report on the interview, which the civil servant concerned can contest – as was possible regarding rating in the previous system – at a meeting of the joint commission (Commission paritaire) comprising trade union and management representatives.

The expected result is improved career paths, as well as improved matching of civil servants' skills and the requirements of their job.

Trade union opposition to law

Trade unions representing civil and public servants consider that the new law makes it possible to circumvent awarding civil servant status to new employees. They thus unanimously criticise those articles of the law that are linked to restructuring the civil service and to the generalised use of imposed part-time employment, as well as the use of temporary agency staff. They also fear the law’s impact on working conditions. The trade unions contest, above all, the way in which new positions are created for staff, whose previous jobs have been abolished.

The obligation to accept one of three management proposals or run the risk of being dismissed or forcibly placed in non-active status constitutes ‘the end of guaranteed employment’, according to the National Federation of Independent Unions (Union nationale des syndicats autonomes, UNSA). The civil service should, on the contrary, consolidate ‘the right to mobility that both respects staff’s wishes as well as the needs of public services’, in the view of the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT).

Catherine Vincent, Institute for Economic and Social Research (IRES)

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