Labour Research April 2016

European news

French opposition to code continues

French unions are stepping up their opposition to changes to the labour code being put forward by the government led by president François Hollande.

Between 250,000 and 500,000 marched through cities and towns across France on 9 March with further actions planned. 

The unions are responding to wide-reaching changes in employment rights, affecting working time, overtime payments, redundancies and compensation, put forward by labour minister Myriam El Khomri. The details are complex. But while they leave the 35-hour week in place as the normal working week, they give employers much greater flexibility to increase working hours while potentially reducing overtime payments. 

They also extend the circumstances under which the employer can justify redundancies for economic reasons. And there are new limits on the amount that the French equivalent of employment tribunals can award for unfair dismissals. The new maximum, for those with 20 years’ service or more, is 15 months’ pay.

Unions have varied in their responses to the plans, with two of France’s main confederations, CGT and FO, involved in the 9 March actions, while the three other confederations — CFDT, CFTC and CFE-CGC — have sought other ways to influence the government. However, all five oppose the changes.