Landmark agreement on vocational training in social economy sector

In September 2006, three employer organisations and three trade union confederations representing the social economy sector signed the first agreement on continuing vocational training for the sector. The employers and trade unions determined five areas where further consultation is required, including the transferability of the individual right to training from one company to another as well as the promotion of individual career paths through the recognition of work experience.

On 22 September 2006, several of the social economy sector representative employer organisations and trade unions signed the first agreement on continuing vocational training. The agreement covers the entire social economy sector, such as associations, mutual benefit companies, mutual insurance establishments and cooperatives, and provides a lifelong access to training for employees of the sector. The social partners signed the agreement following two years of negotiations and almost three years after the landmark interprofessional agreement on continuing vocational training was concluded (FR0311103F).

Signatories to agreement

On the employers’ side, the agreement was signed by the Coalition of Representative Employers’ Associations in the Social Economy Sector (Union des syndicats et groupements d’employeurs représentatifs dans l’économie sociale, USGERES); the Union of National Employer Federations and Non-Profit Associations in the Health and Social Sector (Union des fédérations et des syndicats nationaux d’employeurs sans but lucratif du secteur sanitaire, médico-social et social, UNIFED); and the Mutual Insurance Companies Organisation (Groupement des entreprises mutuelles d’assurances, GEMA). USGERES had been negotiating with the trade union confederations for several years (FR0503101N), and played a determining role for the outcome of the agreement.

On the trade union side, the agreement was signed by the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT); the French Christian Workers’ Confederation (Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens, CFTC); and the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération générale du travail, CGT).

Provisions of agreement

The agreement (in French, 91Kb PDF) sets out details in relation to the funding of the vocational training as well as a number of vocational training tools, most of which have been in place in other sectors of activity and whose use is now facilitated in the social economy sector. The following constitute the agreement’s key provisions:

  • The financial contribution to vocational training will progressively increase for every company in the sector, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 10 employees. In 2009, contributions will reach at least 1.6% of an SME’s payroll, compared with the current 0.55% at national and interprofessional level.
  • The employers and trade unions determined five areas where further consultation is required and which will be negotiated by the beginning of next year, namely to:
    • guarantee the transferability of the individual right to training (droit individuel à la formation, DIF) from one company to another when an employment contract ends, thus making the entitlement personal and not company-based;
    • promote individual career paths through validation of work experience (validation des acquis de l’expérience, VAE), particularly for jobseekers with difficult prospects;
    • cooperate in the development of harmonised vocational training tools and facilitate transversal employment and training experience in certain pilot areas;
    • create the conditions that will support social dialogue in the sector. In a press release on 10 October 2006 (84Kb PDF), USGERES regretted that ‘the President of the French Republic evaded the question of employer organisations’ representativeness’, as did the two reports recently published on social dialogue and the social partners, namely the Hadas-Lebel (FR0606039I) and Chertier (FR0606049I) reports;
    • put forward training principles and methods to develop entrepreneurial skills among managers of organisations specialising in voluntary work in the social economy sector.
  • A committee will be set up to monitor negotiations in the sector, with equal representation of both sides. It will consist of 10 employer representatives and two representatives per trade union confederation.

One of the agreement’s clauses specifies that the signatories wish to extend the agreement to the entire social economy sector by ministerial decree.

Views of the social partners

According to USGERES, the interprofessional agreement will provide an added value compared to agreements at branch level or to subsectors of the social economy, such as organisations in the field of insurance, health and social services. For the employers in the social economy sector, the agreement represents a significant step towards defining a subject field that is part of their activities and to familiarise the authorities with their activities in terms of employment structure, training practices and exercise of social dialogue.

The confederations CFDT, CFTC and CGT are pleased with the conclusion of this agreement which falls within the framework of the 2003 interprofessional agreement on continuing vocational training.

The French Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff – General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff (Confédération française de l’encadrement – Confédération générale des cadres, CFE-CGC) has not yet signed the agreement and has not made an official statement to date.

The General Confederation of Labour – Force Ouvrière (Confédération générale du travail – Force ouvrière, CGT-FO) has stated that it would not sign the agreement. In fact, CGT-FO pointed to an inherent contradiction, as this agreement – which would take precedence over other agreements in the sector – could be less favourable for employees than agreements already negotiated in social economy subsectors, such as in insurances, health and social services.

Benoît Robin, Institute for Economic and Social Research (IRES)

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