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France: Swedish derogation ‘à la Française’ not before June

22 April 2013

Trade unions and employers met for the second time last Friday (19 April) to discuss the introduction of permanent contracts for temporary agency workers. The talks were initiated in March, following from the labour agreement signed by social partners in order to reform the labour market.

There are two main types of employment contract in France: the CDI (Contract Duration Indeterminée) which is an open-ended contract and the CDD (Contract Duration Determinée) which is a fixed-term contract. Up to now, staffing firms have been restricted from hiring agency workers on CDI contracts. The proposed change can be likened to the Swedish derogation in the UK, which provides an exemption from current agency workers regulations regarding equal treatment in relation to pay where a worker is employed permanently by a staffing company and continues to be paid a minimum amount, of no less than 50% of their highest pay in the previous 12 weeks or the national minimum wage, between assignments. Therefore, the introduction of a “CDI intérimaire” could have a major impact on the French market.

After the first round of negotiations in March, François Roux, CEO of the staffing association Prisme was reported as saying “we are getting closer to finding a consensus on the main aspects, but we still have a lot to do”.  Following the second round of discussions last Friday, Roux did not seem as positive as the debate tensed up around the legal nature of the employment relationship in the new type of contract, and the topic of pay between assignments.

Trade unions favour an indefinite duration contract aligned with the existing CDI (Contract Duration Indeterminée), to which all temporary agency workers would be automatically eligible. By contrast employers would rather be able to select the workers they want to offer a “CDI intérimaire”; primarily highly qualified professionals with experience in areas of acute skills shortages. To the dismay of trade union representatives, in the document the Prisme presented on Friday only the second option appeared.

The employer organisation suggested that the pay between assignments for agency workers benefiting from a “CDI intérimaire” should be equivalent to the unemployment benefits they would be eligible for: 57.4% of the latest daily gross salary. On the over hand, trade unions request “a 100% pay rate” during breaks. Mr Roux declared the Prisme will be back at the table on 31 May with a “comprehensive proposal“ on the topic of pay, including a “guaranteed year-round wage”.

Social partners are due to find a solution by the 28 June, but all agree this will be a hard task to achieve.

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