Agreement to improve job security of skilled workers in metal sector

The employers’ association (UIMM) and the trade unions (CFDT, CGT-FO, CFE-CGC and CFTC) signed an agreement in May 2010 to improve the job security of skilled workers in the French metal industry. The agreement strengthens the management of employment and skills at the company level by establishing a ‘period of mobility’ which will allow workers with two years’ service to take up a new post with another employer while retaining the right to return to their previous employment.

Improving external mobility of skilled workers

An agreement (in French, 145Kb PDF) to improve the job security of skilled workers in the French metal industry was signed on 17 May 2010 by the relevant social partners; the Union of Metallurgy and Mining Industries (UIMM) on behalf of the employers and French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), the General Confederation of Labour – Force Ouvrière (CGT-FO), the French Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff – General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff (CFE-CGC) and the French Christian Workers’ Confederation (CFTC) on behalf of the trade unions.

The agreement establishes a ‘period of mobility’ which will allow workers with at least two years’ service to try out a new job with a different employer without terminating their current contract of employment. With the agreement of their existing employer, their contract of employment will be suspended. Workers will have an obligation to give their old employer details of their new employer.

Along with the suspension of the contract of employment comes a guarantee that, at the end of the ‘period of mobility’, the worker will be able to decide either to return to their former employment or take up the new post permanently and sever their former contract of employment. The contract can be severed through the worker’s resignation or using the conventional French ‘break-up of employment contract’ procedure (Rupture conventionnelle du contrat de travail), which allows French employers and employees to come to an agreement on the conditions of the termination of employment. The conventional break up is governed by articles L.1237-11 and L.1237-16 (in French) of the French Labour Code, introduced as a result of new legislation on the ‘modernisation of the labour market’ (Law No. 2008-596 of 25 June 2008).

When the former contract of employment is severed, the employee leaves the company with the agreed compensation and, if applicable, their rights to unemployment benefits unaffected.

Workers who wish to take up a ‘period of mobility’ will have a new clause inserted in their contract of employment outlining the objective of the agreement, its duration and the effective date of the period of mobility.

‘This device is an innovation which strengthens the job security of the professional worker in their career,’ commented a CFDT representative, ‘because up to now, to try a new post in another company, an employee had to resign with the risk of regretting this if the new employment was not successful’.

Strengthening management of employment and competences

The agreement also contains several provisions that aim to strengthen the management of employment and competences (Gestion prévisionnelle des emplois et des compétences, GPEC), in particular by reinforcing the role of the Qualifications Observatory within the metal sector. One particularly innovative clause in the agreement encourages companies to exchange information about their employment practices and their workforce’s competencies with their subcontractors. This concept was copied from the Automobile Charter (in French) signed in July 2008 between:

  • Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Employment;
  • employer associations – UIMM, the National Council for Automobile Professions (CNPA) and the French Vehicle Equipment Industries (FIEV);
  • trade unions (CFDT, CFE-CGC, CFTC, CGT-FO);
  • a number of companies (PSA, Renault).

The new agreement in the metal sector is the first industry-wide agreement in France in which employers and workers’ representatives have formalised the relations between companies and their subcontractors, who are invited to discuss how this exchange of information on employment and competencies is to be undertaken. They also are invited to discuss the ‘measures likely to make it possible to anticipate their respective changes in employment competences’. This must be done without prejudice to the existing legal requirement of employers to provide information to employee representatives.

This agreement, signed unanimously by all relevant trade unions ‘on the nature and objective of social dialogue’ is testimony to the strength and relevance of social dialogue in the metal sector.

The agreement underlines that ‘the exercise of trade union activity and worker representation are a part of French working life and describes the methods of achieving this objective’, according to UIMM.

In addition, management and employee representatives agreed on an extension until 30 June 2011 of the measures already adopted in response to the economic crisis. The agreement of 7 May 2009 (in French, 67Kb PDF) established exceptional measures and mechanisms aimed at addressing periods when companies have less work. In this situation, these periods can be used to develop workers’ competencies and qualifications and, in order to avoid redundancies, workers can undertake temporary work within other companies.

Frédéric Turlan, Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA)

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