Trade unions and employers facing the challenge of deconfinement on May 11

The race against time is on to avoid the worst. Taken by the throat by the economic crisis due to the Covid-19 crisis, companies are up against the wall to reopen their doors. But how to do this without endangering the health of employees? The answer is simple according to Édouard Philippe, the Prime Minister: “We must mobilize social dialogue at all levels to resume activity under conditions guaranteeing their safety,” he tweeted after a meeting with the social partners on April 30. An orientation reaffirmed by Muriel Pénicaud during the presentation of the deconfinement plan presented this Thursday, May 7. “Dialogue is a central element in the development of this protocol” within companies, insisted the Minister of Labor.

Pointed out and considered as a brake on activity by some, social dialogue is today doomed to gemonies to restart the economy. Its advantage is twofold in this troubled period: adapting health security measures to the realities on the ground but also and above all, reassuring employees. “Negotiating upstream with the trade unions makes it possible to assess the risks within the company and to find concrete answers, advance Raymond Soubie, president of Alixio and former social adviser to Nicolas Sarkozy. This reassures employees. . ” Same story on the side of the CFDT, the first union

de France: “The working people are ready to work again but not to the detriment of their health, notes Marylise Léon, the number two of the organization. Social dialogue is precisely the tool to obtain their approval for the resumption of activity. “

Companies have an interest in negotiating

On the business side, the benefits are also certain: “By relying on trade unions, employers considerably reduce the risks of post-containment legal disputes”, continues Vincent Roulet, lawyer specializing in social law at Eversheds Sutherland. Proof of the goodwill of everyone to get out of the rut of confinement, the employers and two reformist organizations (CFDT and CFTC) have wet the shirt to sign a joint declaration emphasizing the importance of a good social climate in companies to revive the economic machine. The Belleville power plant and the Medef have therefore chosen to temporarily put their differences aside and bury the hatchet after the violent controversy over working time.

Concretely, companies have all the tools to face the crisis: “The ordinances on the Labor Code of 2017 decentralized the negotiation of a certain number of standards at the level of the company, estimates Deborah David, associate lawyer at firm De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés. Working hours, organization of production… Companies have more flexibility to weather storms. On condition that they sign collective agreements with unions. “

A social right of crisis

It was still necessary to urgently adapt social law to allow remote negotiation. “The Ministry of Labor has issued an urgent burst of orders to clarify the relations between unions and employers in times of crisis, details Jilali Maazouz, associate lawyer in the firm McDermott Will & Emery. For example, to set up the partial activity, a company no longer needs to consult the social and economic committee (CSE) upstream but can do so later.Other cases: the possibility of organizing meetings of the CSE by videoconference and simplifying the signing of company agreements. “

On the ground, the discussions, sometimes long and laborious, are starting to bear fruit: Toyota restarted its Valenciennes plant on April 21. Same story for the Bosh factory in Rodez which after four failed attempts, due to opposition from employee organizations, finally reopened its doors on April 14. In the professional branches, the talks also lead to a consensus as in the metallurgy sector where the social partners have signed an agreement which allows an employer in decline in activity to impose on its employees paid leave for two days per week. ‘advance, against a month in normal periods.

Old habits

Despite the goodwill of the majority, old habits die hard. “Some employers still have the desire to unilaterally impose decisions on their employees,” said Philippe Portier, national secretary of the CFDT. It is very uneven: certain professional branches play the game to the full. Others do not. Ditto in the companies. ”

Unlike the unions block all discussions … Starting with the CGT of Philippe Martinez, which traces its path in the dispute: “The conditions are not met for a massive resumption of work”, he proclaims on all waves. And to justify a categorical refusal to restart the economy: “There is no need to manufacture planes, boats, cars … We do not see the usefulness of this type of product at the moment. . ” Cascading strike notice since March, proposal to reduce working time to 32 hours… The Montreuil power plant is firing on all cylinders to make a singular and radical voice heard. Its goal: “to capture the anger that could arise after the health crisis”, notes Bernard Vivier, director of the Higher Institute of Labor. Annoyed, an observer of the social world adds: “I do not understand what the power station is playing. Historically, it has always been for work and employment. But there, it is not the case. How will they justify their positions when the first social plans will arrive in certain companies in bad shape? “