Deconfinement: “The elected staff feel taken hostage”, warns the boss of Technologia

Challenges – The study on elected staff members facing the crisis points to a paradox: social dialogue has clearly intensified in recent weeks in companies. However, elected officials seem very frustrated at the time of deconfinement. Why?

Jean-Claude Delgenes – The elected officials have shown a strong spirit of responsibility which is manifested by the support for the emergency measures taken by their directorates on the continuation of activity or the working time. And this, even though many of them have observed abuses in the deployment of certain measures, in particular that of short-time working, which raise questions from an ethical point of view. The big problem for them was that they received less technical assistance in the face of legal developments, which slowed them down to weigh in the debates in the face of departments with often very vertical decision logic. The other big frustration was the difficulty in maintaining contact with employees for nearly 60% of them.

Are these difficulties not shared by the management, which also had to adapt on the fly?

Of course. The crisis has been a source of stress for them too. To reassure themselves, many of them hastened to draw up emergency plans without taking the opportunity to open a dialogue with elected officials, occupational health services or

the employees which would have enabled them to amplify the mobilization during the deconfinement. So much so that they are now exposed to tensions conducive to litigation.

Do you anticipate an outbreak of conflicts within companies in the coming months?

For sure. Elected officials feel held hostage by the new tightened information-consultation deadlines enacted by the government. This puts them in an impossible situation. No longer having the time to consult employees and experts to deliver enlightened opinions that engage their responsibility, many will issue unfavorable opinions when they are consulted, or even initiate legal proceedings. It has already started. The Amazon case is emblematic. For example, it will suffice to take photos of employees in the workshop or in an open space who do not respect the correct safety distances or are not equipped with masks in confined spaces.

The leaders seem to be well aware of this risk. Good news for social dialogue, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, the study shows a stagnation in relations between elected officials and management, or even a deterioration. Elected officials have shown maturity during confinement and are entitled to expect the same level of maturity from their leaders at the time of the recovery. Some are playing the game. Unfortunately, the state of social dialogue during this crisis is also marked by the traces of the latest labor law reforms which have led to massive reductions in the number of elected representatives in companies in recent years, and in particular members of health, safety and working conditions committees (CHSCT) which have disappeared. If they had continued, we would have had 150,000 to 200,000 more people across France trained in businesses in health risks. Crisis management would no doubt have been much easier to absorb the shock.

Have the public authorities been up to the task of supporting the social partners?

What I see is that there has been a proliferation of texts issued, at the same time very comprehensive, very complex and sometimes contradictory. And this, without real support, or very concrete information. All the players concerned had difficulty in keeping up with these very rapid developments. At Technologia, we have been inundated with requests from staff representatives who feel powerless when faced with the very specific issues of their colleagues. Fortunately, the trade union centers have cushioned the shock.

What does this study say about the social climate in companies at a time of deconfinement?

Beyond the health crisis, it reveals great concerns. Elected officials fear social plans, site closures, reduced income for their colleagues, blockages on career development. They will nevertheless continue to take it upon themselves and invest in social dialogue. The study clearly shows to what extent they want to be more proactive around the issues of the recovery, in particular on reflections on new work organization. At the same time, great anger is mounting over the management of the crisis. It is difficult to know what it will lead to, but the management would have every interest in being more attentive to feedback from the field without being locked into productivist logic. The only way to find a collective breath is to restore team confidence and consideration.