On 2 August 2007 the French Parliament adopted a Bill relating to minimum public transport services. The Bill applies to both public and private transport providers and sets out a minimum service to be provided to the public in the event of a strike by transport workers or if there is a planned interruption to services. Under the Bill, transport users must receive free, clear and reliable information on the services that will run in the event of any disruption. Air transport is currently excluded from the legislation.
One of the main features of the Bill is that workers will have to declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance of any strike. If they fail to do this, they will be subject to disciplinary action.
The Bill also seeks to establish a dispute resolution procedure whereby the unions must notify the employer company in advance of any plan to issue a notification of strike action (existing legislation requires this only in respect of public sector employers). Furthermore, where there is a dispute resolution procedure agreement in place between the trade union and the employer, a notification of strike action cannot be made until negotiations have broken down. Workers will not be entitled to payment during any strike.
The Bill provides for negotiations between trade unions and employer organisations relating to the points above with a view to reaching agreement if possible before 1 January 2008.
Needless to say, the unions see the bill as an attack by the French Government on the right to strike. There is also a concern that it might be the “thin end of the wedge” as there have been suggestions that, if successful, the legislation could be extended to other vital public sector services, for example, education or waste collection.