13 July, 2005ICEM News Release No. 5/1999
France's electricity and gas utilities EDF-GDF will introduce a 35-hour week under an agreement signed yesterday with unions in the sector.
At the same time, EDF-GDF committed themselves to take on an extra 20,000 young workers over the next three years. Since about 15,000 of EDF-GDF's 142,000 employees are due to retire during that period, the agreement means a net gain of around 5,000 jobs. This is viewed as a sign of confidence in EDF-GDF's future at a time when parts of their market are about to be opened up to competition.
The strong emphasis on shorter hours and more jobs is due in large part to the bargaining policies of the FCE-CFDT union, which is affiliated at the global level to the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).
Today, the FCE-CFDT stressed that the new agreement builds on previous EDF-GDF experience of reducing work times while simultaneously boosting employment.
In fact, more big cuts in working hours are on the cards. The agreement also provides for voluntary moves to a 32-hour, four-day week.
It is up to each work unit to decide whether they want this and, if so, how they will put it into practice. For this reason, the work time cuts will not come into effect until October.
Those who opt for the 32-hour week will receive 97.1 percent of full pay (99.1 percent for the lower wage categories).
FCE-CFDT is arguing strongly in favour of the 32-hour option, because "the employment effects are greater. This is an opportunity for everyone to organise their work on the basis of a four-day week. A 32-hour week is also the best route to an innovative work organisation that reconciles individual aspirations with the requirements of public service, in the context of the opening up to competition."
The new measures are to be financed partly from EDF-GDF's resources, partly through state schemes and partly through wage restraint. Together with the accord on shorter hours and new jobs, the FCE-CFDT yesterday signed a national pay agreement which provides for a basic rise of 0.6 per cent as from January. Bonuses for 1997 and 1998 were retroactively increased by 2.6 percent and 5.2 percent respectively.