“If the public hospital held out, it was because employee representative bodies helped find solutions”


La social democracy, within which the actors of civil society, particularly the social partners, play a regulatory role, alongside or alongside the State, has been built over more than a century. Violated during the first five-year term of President Emmanuel Macron, she was just as violent in the second.

The place of social partners in national social reforms has been reduced to consultations, or to negotiations locked within the straitjacket of framework letters, which leave them too little room for maneuver. And when these same partners manage to find an agreement, the State does not hesitate to refuse its approval, as it did on Monday November 27 with regard to new unemployment insurance rules.

Governance by article 49.3 of the Constitution, including for Social Security financing laws, prevents the social partners from influencing the parliamentary debate, which itself has been sidelined. And we need flawless unity to prevent the tools created and administered by social partners such the private sector supplementary pension fund Agirc-Arrco are not collected by the State. Is this the swan song of social democracy in France?

One of the first acts of macronism was to attempt to undermine representative democracy in companies and places of joint construction with employers: exit the health, safety and working conditions committee (CHSCT), place in the social council and economic (CSE) with reduced means. Likewise, the role of trade union organizations has been limited, particularly with regard to career management in the public service.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it was indeed a “social health democracy” that came on the ground to compensate for a failing State. A collective work published in October, Faced with Covid, the challenge of employment, under the direction of Claude Didry (La Dispute, 220 pages, 18 euros) and resulting from research for Dares – the statistical service of the Ministry of Labor –, offers a vast panorama in several sectors. If the public hospital held on, it was because the CHSCTs, which had not been dismantled, contributed to finding practical solutions.

Standards and regulations

If companies also have able to preserve work collectives, it is also by relying on the action of unions towards employees shaken either by the anxiety of contamination, or by that of inactivity or isolation . Innovation also came from the branches with, as in the film industry or construction and public works, the reconstitution of a health approach through collective negotiation around ad hoc commissions and the development, as well as their implementation of health protocols while supporting employees’ desire for recovery; such approaches were subsequently used in large companies.

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