Report proposes new body to fight racial discrimination in the workplace

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A report published in France in April 1999, commissioned by the Minister for Employment and Solidarity, proposes the creation of an independent administrative authority responsible for dealing with the claims of people who feel they are victims of racial discrimination in the workplace. The social partners were due to discuss the matter during round-table discussions in May.

The past several years have seen a degree of activity in France around the issue of racism at the workplace. 1997 was declared European Year against Racism (TN9706201S) and French trade unions took various types of action to raise consciousness among employees and members on this topic. The annual report of the the National Consultative Committee on Human Rights (Commission nationale consultative des droits de l'homme, CNCDH) presented to the Prime Minister on 2 April 1998, also stressed the large extent of racial discrimination in the workplace.

In October 1998, the High Commission for the Integration of Immigrants (Haut Conseil à l'Intégration) stated that "it is time to break the law of silence over a development which is undermining the very foundations of the French model of integration". Martine Aubry, the Minister for Employment and Solidarity, then announced the creation of an "observatory on discrimination" and entrusted Jean-Michel Belorgey, state councillor (conseiller d'état), with the task of assessing the relevance of existing French administrative bodies to the issue of racial discrimination.

On 6 April 1999, Mr Belorgey made public his report, entitled Fighting discrimination (Lutter contre les discriminations), in which he argues for wide-ranging reform of the institutions responsible for these matters. He advocates the establishment of an independent authority, to be named the Higher Commission for Integration and Anti-Discrimination ("Conseil supérieur de l'intégration et de la lutte contre les discriminations"), and based on the model of the National Commission for Freedom and Information Technology (Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés, CNIL) and the Higher Commission for Radio and Television (Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel, CSA). The new body would be responsible for dealing with claims from employees who felt that they were victims of discrimination by an employer. Moreover, the report advocates that the government services managing immigration and those monitoring integration should be split up. Mr Belorgey also urges the debate to move from "considering the deficiencies of integration, towards focusing on the rigidity of the host society".

Mr Belorgey strongly suggests the creation of an "agency for integration and anti-discrimination" which would bring together part of Sonacotra (an organisation responsible for housing immigrants), the Office of Population and Migration (Direction des populations et des Migrations, DPM) and the Social Action Fund (Fonds d'action sociale, FAS). This agency would be affiliated to the envisaged new independent authority and placed under the authority of the the Ministry of Employment and Solidarity's social affairs section.

The minister has not yet made her intentions public, but has set 12 May as the date for a round-table discussion on the issue with all the social partners, initially planned for February.

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