Centre Européen de la Négociation - Negotiation Skills Training - Consulting & Coaching

The blog

Collective bargaining: the stakes of a "social spring

By Philippe Etienne

On 31 January this year, on the occasion of a RTL-Le Monde" programmePhilippe Martinez, the secretary general of the CGT, said: " I want a social spring ". It also calls for a ban on redundancies until the health crisis is over.

A few days earlier, Laurent BergerThe general secretary of the CFDT insists on the need to re-evaluate the remuneration of health professionals by 15%.

Finally, in an interview with Le Point published on 31 Januarythe president of the MEDEF, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, pleaded for " a better balance between economy and health "and emphasised that employees were " psychologically tired "

Three different and complementary views on the economic and social reality of this health crisis. But they all say that an important social meeting is coming up.

In parallel, let's look at the results of the demonstrations organised a few days later, on 4 February, for " relaunching the social sector ". According to this article from Le ParisienIn Paris, the marchers claimed 20,000 people when the police counted 4,800. It's still winter.

If social dialogue is a game of arm wrestling, it's not going to work out well.

So what is the solution? Is the alternative to 'giving up'? Is social dialogue an all or nothing proposition?


Beyond the rhetoric: the reality

Let's take a look at the annual report of the Commission Nationale de la Négociation Collective. The edition published at the end of 2020 tells us the reality of 2019, a turbulent year (Gilets Jaunes, pension reform). It provides some "objective criteria" that allow us to evaluate the gap between the watchwords thrown out on Sundays on the radio and what is happening on the ground.

As regards negotiation in the professional branches, the report highlights the continuity of behaviour: the rate of signature is unchanged between 2018 and 2019. The CFDT signed 86% of agreements, FO signed 69%, CGE-CGC and CFTC signed 59% and 56% respectively. The CGT signed 39%. The most important variations in the rate of signature, on the rise, concern the CGT: in 2019, the CGT saw an increase of 13% in its rate of signature. Sunday's remarks on RTL lose some of their bright red glow.

This becomes even more apparent when the report looks at the results for agreements signed in companies.

103,700 texts were signed in 2019. The scores produced by the Direccte give two figures: the rate of signature of each organisation on the one hand, and the propensity of each to sign on the other. The figure for the propensity to sign is the most interesting because it shows the rate of signature in the companies when the trade union organisations are represented there. However, not all the organisations are present everywhere.

This figure indicates that, when they are represented in the company, CFDT signs 94% of agreements, CFE-CGC signs 93%, CFTC signs 92%, FO signs 90% and CGT signs 85%. So what does the call for a "social spring" mean?

Moreover, these results are remarkably consistent from one year to the next. The same is true in 2018, 2017, 2016, etc.

In short, the "hold me back or I'll make a mess" tune sounds wrong.

It is time to stop being fooled by the fairy tales of some or others. It is time for the signatories to be proud of their signatures!

Training to get out of postures

The most complicated part of this story is to help the negotiators to accept negotiation for what it is: a dispute resolution process. Because it is perfectly acceptable to recognise that the views of the MEDEF or the CGT, to stick to the extremes of the current situation, are not in harmony when the negotiation starts.

Published in 2015, the Combrexelle report, named after the former head of the Directorate-General for Labour, aimed to give negotiation between social partners greater weight in the development of labour law. The report insisted in particular on " the necessary professionalisation of the actors ".

However, it is possible to identify and share benchmarks that can help them strengthen their preparation and their capacity to manage and intervene in negotiations.

It is worth the effort to find "winning" solutions to the social issues that everyone can see. How many representatives of employers' organisations or trade unions will want to stick to the image of a hardliner in order to be recognised as a good defender of employees' or companies' interests? How many will continue to believe that they fulfil their mandates by rolling up their sleeves? How many divisions in the gorilla army?

It is time to define a framework to allow the social partners to renounce nothing, and especially not their values, and, at the same time, to engage in protective negotiations that respect the interests of all parties.

So that in the spring of 2021, a hundred flowers can bloom! In short, that the social spring will be there, but without the nervous breakdowns that only stimulate the drummers.

In conclusion, if the economic crisis caused by the health crisis is not to lead to an uncontrolled social situation, it is time to identify the "barrier gestures" to the viruses of bluffing, lying and rejection of the "other".

See also

the European Negotiation Centre, quoted in Le Point.

Scroll to Top

By continuing your navigation, you accept the deposit of cookies intended for the proper functioning of the site