International Symposium : For Work Style Reform-Amendments of French Labor Law and the Difference in Industrial Relations between Japan and France

January 10, 2018 [No.46-2017]


This issue reports on the AOTS International Symposium held on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 titled: For Work Style Reform-Amendments of French labor Law and the difference in Industrial Relations between Japan and France.
In France the labor law was significantly revised in 2016 and 2017, which has garnered attention from around the world. AOTS invited Prof. Jean-Emmanuel Ray, University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, to Japan. As the leading authority in the field of the French labor law, Prof. Ray talked about the background and purpose of revising the labor law and prospects for working conditions in France going forward. The symposium was a success with the audience exceeding the seating capacity.
The gist of the key note speech and the panel discussion is as follows:

Keynote Speech

The reform of French labor Law, which started in 1982, has finally come to an end this year. Before the reform, the minimum working conditions were stipulated by the labor law and working conditions advantageous to employees could be added by industry-level agreements. The Auroux Laws enacted in 1982 enabled working conditions to be set by company-level agreements in addition to the conventional laws and industry-level agreements. As a result, different working conditions could be set in each company in the same industry. In addition, the 2004 revision allows some areas of working conditions to be excluded from application of industry-level agreements by company-level agreements. Though in reality this system has not been fully utilized, the revision has shown the path to determine working conditions by company-level agreements. The 2017 revision stipulates that company-level agreements as a rule take precedence over industry-level agreements. Companies can be, in order to maintain their competitive edge, more flexible than before in determining wages, personnel relocation and working hours through its agreement with employees. In addition, the cost for terminating employment is reduced. Although the labor side objects to this revision, it is expected to promote solutions to problems, such as a high unemployment rate and employment of young people, which the EU has requested the French government to deal with.
This reform of the labor law also considers emerging technological innovations in the new age and subsequent changes to work styles. The Internet technology has broken down conventional work styles on which the labor law has assumed—namely workers have to physically stay at the workplace to work for pre-determined hours—but now white-collar workers can work in various ways for various hours. Companies can no longer manage their employees’ work and break hours. The adoption of a de facto working hour system only revealed the limit of the labor law. The Internet makes it difficult for white-collar workers in particular to distinguish between work and personal time. So, the challenges for the labor law are how to guarantee the “right to disconnect” that will allow them to ignore emails or any other messages sent through the Internet outside working hours, as well as how to deal with the new business model that will emerge in line with the new information technology.

Panel Discussion

In the panel discussion, the panelists answered questions from the participants that had been asked in advance. The major topics selected were as follows:
-    Whether the labor law reform will continue as is
-    Employment and management-labor relations of platform businesses such as Uber
-    Regulations on terminating employment at global companies’ branches in France
-    Differences in the awareness of work styles depending on the generation, industry and type of work
-    Differences in work styles between the Japanese and the French
Although the time was limited, the panelists presented various opinions on these topics.

The first of four installments of the article by Prof. Hiroshi Kitani, Prefectural University of Hiroshima, titled Work Style Reform to harness a diversity of personnel will appear in the next issue.