The permanent restructuring of the French automotive industry. Industrial relations in a declining industry (2008-2022)

Publication Type:

Conference Paper

Source:

Gerpisa colloquium, Detroit (2022)

Keywords:

Automotive industry, industrial conflict, industrial relations, unions

Abstract:

The French automotive industry has been in decline for the last fifteen years. This decline is most often reflected in plant closures and in massive job losses. As a result, production volumes have been falling and the workforce has been steadily declining as a result of the permanent restructuring of the branch. By creating uncertainty about the future of factories and jobs, constant restructuring inhibits labour disputes and disciplines unions.

At the same time, the sector is undergoing major changes in industrial relations, especially in collective bargaining. Indeed, labour relations in the French automotive industry have become very strongly centralised, with little to no negotiation taking place at plant level, moving discussions on working conditions and employment away from factories. It can also be observed that, for the last ten years, the sector has seen the rise of new centralised collective agreements favoured by labour law reforms in France. This results in the fact that in automotive firms there is mainly a regulation based on collective agreements envisaged as a means of lowering costs and increasing competitiveness. Moreover, recent months have shown that the Covid crisis has reinforced this tendency.

This paper is based on over ten years of research on work and industrial relations in the French automotive industry. I investigated labour relations in the two main French car manufacturers, PSA (now Stellantis) and Renault. Through comprehensive fieldwork, I show how the decline of the French automotive industry goes hand in hand with the transformation of Industrial relations and collective bargaining.

 

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