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Collective bargaining and intermediary regulation in France: the case of mandating employee representatives.

Focus is on an aspect of collective bargaining that has received relatively little attention in sociological research: the mandating of employee representatives, an innovative bargaining practice invented in 1995. Designating and accrediting a company employee to negotiate an accord with the employer calls into question union delegate privileges since in principle union delegates have a bargaining monopoly. In France, the employee mandating practice resulted in a massive number of labor accords being reached in connection with the country’s 35-hour work-week law. However, the practice does not comply with the rules and regulations for “traditional” negotiation of company labor accords. What is innovative and original in the practice of mandating employee representatives is that it produces accords that cannot be called “sell-outs”; the article shows how many of these accords have produced more favorable working conditions than classic accords. Making use of social regulation theory, it presents the results of a combined quantitative-qualitative empirical study: analysis of 1 232 company-specific labor accords reached in the framework of the French 35-hour work-week law is enriched by a series of interviews with representatives of employer and union organizations.

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