European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Strikes in France: background summary

The right to strike is guaranteed by the Constitution. It is an individual right that is to be exercised collectively. In other words, it is necessary for several employees to decide, together, that they will stop work as a means of furthering work-related demands. One employee alone cannot go on strike except in the framework of a national strike.

Background info

Is the right to strike in danger?

  • While the right to strike has never been called directly into question, the question of requiring compulsory provision of a minimum service in public services was subject to lengthy debate in the first decade of this century. In 2008 a law was adopted to regulate the right to strike in land-based transport systems by requiring a fortnight’s concertation between trade unions and management before beginning a strike. Moreover, each employee became required to state, 48 hours in advance, the intention to take part in the announced strike. This requirement enables transport companies better to inform passengers and to organise a minimum service.
  • In the same year legislation was adopted requiring schools to provide a childminding service in the event of a teachers’ strike.
  • The question of obstructing the right to strike returned centre-stage following two incidents of industrial unrest during which trade unionists were accused of criminal acts (violence, damage to public buildings). Whereas previously judges had generally imposed fines or suspended prison sentences for such acts, on 12 January 2016 a court sentenced eight trade unionists from the tyre manufacturing company Goodyear to nine-month prison sentences. The judgement shocked the trade unions, all the more so in that the Goodyear management had withdrawn their complaints and an official statement had declared the dispute closed. The legal proceedings against the eight trade unionists were, accordingly, conducted by the public ministry.
  • A few months earlier, the decision taken by the airline company Air France to suspend or dismiss two trade unionists accused of having physically attacked two representatives of management (an incident that received wide media coverage thanks to a video widely disseminated through the social media) was also interpreted in some trade union circles as an attempt to intimidate trade unionists.

Last data on strikes

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