Academic journal article Capital & Class

SUD Trade Unions: The New Organisations Trying to Conquer the French Trade Union Scene

Academic journal article Capital & Class

SUD Trade Unions: The New Organisations Trying to Conquer the French Trade Union Scene

Article excerpt

In France, over the last ten years or so, the grand compromises that were supposed to have enabled the building of an efficient system of social redistribution for retirement, healthcare and unemployment benefit have been seriously questioned. Added to this refondation sociale (social remodelling), according to the term used by MEDEF, the main French employers' organisation, is the planned or current privatisation of public network services that were previously nationalised (energy and rail companies), or that were part of the civil service (the Post Office and tele-communications), which had helped in the rebuilding of the country after the end of the Second World War, and which contributed to the economic success and cohesion of the country.

These current changes are often presented as being inevitable, given a European and world economic context that requires budgetary rigour and freedom to do business. The trade union movement is faced with questions from multiple sources on its capacity to produce the compromises that, today, will be the equivalent of those that allowed the consolidation of public services, and of the social redistribution system. These questions are even more important when placed in the current trade union context of deep division. While there are five 'representative' trade union organisations in France that have an official place in the management of welfare organisations--the CFDT, the CFTC, the CGT, the CGT-FO, and the CFE-CGC newcomers are also appearing. They come either from existing organisations the SUB trade unions ('Solidaires, Unitaires, Democratiques'), which are the subject of this article, or the FSU (Federation Syndicale Unitaire), which was created in 1993 following the implosion of the FEN (Federation de l'Education Nationale) one year previously; or they have come about from the joining of non-affiliated forces, and take the form of vocational interprofessional organisations--the Union Nationale Groupe des Dix, which was formally constituted in 1998 but has existed since 1981 (Denis, 2001), and the UNSA (Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes), set up in 1993.

The first in a series, the SUD-PTT was founded in 1988 by militants excluded from the CFDT executive (Damesin & Denis, 2001). Their exclusion was a result of their involvement in an internal conflict in their sector against the wishes of their congress; and secondly, of having supported--again, in conflict with their union superiors--the different movements in France at the end of the 1980s, which involved teachers, nurses, train drivers, employees from the SNECMA and Air France, etc. (Denis, 1996).

Contrary to expectations, this new federation succeeded in penetrating the postal and telecommunications sector, growing rapidly, which was rather atypical given the stagnated state of French unions. Its membership grew from 1,843 in 1990 to 5,847 in 1995, reaching 12,317 in 1999 (SUD statistics). At France Telecom, its percentage rose from 5.9 per cent in 1989 to 28 per cent in 2000, and at the Post Office it grew from 4.5 per cent in 1989 to 18.7 per cent in 2000--figures which make it the second-largest trade union organisation in these two companies. Mainly rooted in the Ile-de-France region at the outset (in 1990, its membership from outside the Paris region only made up 21.4 per cent of its total number of members), SUD-PTT has expanded and now has a presence in virtually all of the country's departements, including those which are overseas. SUD-PTT has become a model for the other emerging forces that, especially since the large strikes of November and December 1995, have grouped together under its banner. In 2001, there were nearly fifty SUP trade unions of varying size and importance, the most important being, according to SUD-PTT, SUD Sante Sociaux (8,000 members), SUD-Rail (5,000 members), and SUD-Education (2,500 members).

This new situation poses important questions for the main players in the 'system' of industrial relations, but also for those whose job it is to analyse them. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.