Agreement on social dialogue in craft industry

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In December 2001, employers' organisations and trade unions in the French craft industry concluded an agreement on developing social dialogue. It provides for extra resources for both sides to improve their representative structures. The deal has been criticised by employers' organisations outside the craft industry.

An agreement on 'fostering a social dialogue in the craft industry' was signed on 12 December 2001 by the Craftwork Employers' Association (Union professionnelle artisanale, UPA) and five trade union confederations: the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération générale du travail, CGT), the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT), the General Confederation of Labour-Force ouvrière (Confédération générale du travail-Force ouvrière, CGT-FO), the French Christian Workers' Confederation (Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens, CFTC) and 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). The craft industry (artisanat) refers to small-scale artisanal production and services.

The agreement establishes a compulsory contribution of 0.15% of paybill, to be borne by craft companies in order to fund the development of social dialogue in the industry. One part of this contribution - 'portion A', worth 0.08% - is to be distributed on an intersectoral basis (ie across all the various sectors of the craft industry) equally between employers' associations and the five unions with representative status. The trade unions' half is split in the following way; three 13ths each for CFDT, CGT and CGT-FO; and two 13ths each for CFE-CGC and CFTC. Portion A will be managed by a national intersectoral employer-union non-profit-making body for the development of social dialogue in the craft industry.

'Portion B' of the compulsory contribution (worth 0.07%) will be distributed at sector level, depending on provisions to be set out at that level, and managed by joint bodies on a sectoral level or grouping a number of sectors. At sector level, the agreement was signed by the three component organisations of UPA: the Confederation of Craft and Small Firms in Construction (Confédération de l'artisanat et des petites entreprises du bâtiment, CAPEB); the National Confederation of Craft Industry Trades and Services (Confédération nationale de l'artisanat des métiers et des services, CNAMS); and the General Food Retailers' Confederation (Confédération générale de l'alimentation de détail, CGAD).

Given the growing complexity of labour law and the need to adapt work organisation, the unions and employers' associations that signed the agreement consider that the sector level is the most appropriate for dialogue and negotiation in the craft industry.

The signatory unions must, according to the terms of the agreement, use the funds placed at their disposal to increase the number of company-level representatives in joint negotiations, and to extend measures aimed at informing employees about the provisions of collective agreements. Employers' associations have to use their new resources to strengthen sector-level bodies, and form and extend regional and local ones in order to bolster social dialogue at a more decentralised level.

In addition to the new funds thus placed at the disposal of the unions and employers' associations so that they may undertake training of their representatives and support their sector- and regional-level organisations, the agreement also prioritises funding for improving the image of craftwork - which associated in public opinion with very difficult working conditions and limited work-related benefits.

To facilitate the access of employees' and employers' representatives to the various sector-level decision-making bodies, the agreement makes provision for the payment of the wages of employee-side negotiators, as well as compensation for the absence of employers' representatives' from their workplace. Lastly, the agreement provides protection against dismissal for employees holding a union position.

The signatory unions and employers' associations have welcomed the agreement and would like to see it extended to cover all the businesses in the craft industry. For UPA, the agreement is directly in line with the 'common position on the ways and means of enriching collective bargaining' (FR0108163F) concluded by the national social partner organisations (including all three main employers' confederations) in July 2001. However, none of the other central employers' organisations share this view. The General Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (Confédération générale des petites et moyennes entreprises, CGPME) feels that the craft industry agreement, which, it maintains, was drafted without consultation with the other employers' organisations, 'is open to much criticism', as it raises costs for companies. The Movement of French Enterprises (Mouvement des entreprises de France, MEDEF), has condemned the agreement , calling it 'detrimental to social dialogue', and has expressed surprise that 'UPA has again agreed to measures that fly in the face of the guiding ideas of employers' organisations.' The new agreement has indeed further underlined the ongoing rift between MEDEF and UPA in terms of their objectives.

MEDEF, CGPME and the French Building Federation (Fédération française du bâtiment, FFB) - a sector-level grouping which is a member of the MEDEF - want the new agreement to apply only to companies that are members of the UPA or one of its sector-level organisations. They are opposed to its extension to all businesses in the craft industry.

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