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Industrial relations in France: From the underdevelopment of collective bargaining to the failure of neocorporatist concertation

Udo Rehfeldt (Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales, Noisy le Grand Cedex, France)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 30 May 2018

Issue publication date: 8 June 2018

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present the actors, institutions and changing rules of the French system of industrial relations (IR). It questions whether the traditional view of the French model as “state-centric” is still adequate.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on institutionalist IR theories of social regulation and neocorporatism, the paper analyses the evolution of the French IR system from a “State-centric” model to the development of collective bargaining, both at the sector and company level, as well as of tripartite concertation.

Findings

Initially based on adversarial relations between trade unions and employers, compensated by strong state interventionism, the French IR system has experienced a series of reforms, adopted under the pressure of the unions in the 1980s and mostly under the pressure of the employers’ organisations since the turn of the century. These reforms boosted collective bargaining at the workplace level and tripartite concertation at the peak level. The paper analyses the limits of both developments and explains why a reversal of the hierarchy of norms was imposed in 2016 by law without prior concertation.

Originality/value

The paper presents an original explanation of the change of the initial French IR model, stressing the importance of power relations and the role of IR experts in the different reform moments.

Keywords

Citation

Rehfeldt, U. (2018), "Industrial relations in France: From the underdevelopment of collective bargaining to the failure of neocorporatist concertation", Employee Relations, Vol. 40 No. 4, pp. 617-633. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-02-2017-0033

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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