By Philippe Desprès and Sarah Zafrani
The French National Assembly has passed the Collective Employment Relations Bill, which proposes authorizing trade unions to use a company’s email system and its intranet to communicate with employees. Although trade unions already use electronic means to disseminate information, the bill provides legal backup for this practice if disputes arise.
The French National Assembly has passed the Collective Employment Relations Bill on its first reading. Article 45 of the bill proposes authorizing trade unions to use a company’s email and its intranet to communicate with employees.
The article sets out the conditions with which trade unions must comply in order to use a company’s facilities. The trade union must enter into an agreement with the company regarding (i) the posting of tracts on the trade union’s website and on the company’s intranet, and (ii) the sending of tracts via the company’s email system.
The agreement should specify how employees would be able to access the information, and the technical rules to be followed in order to preserve an employee’s freedom to choose whether to accept trade union messages (so-called ‘e-tracts’). The bill states that the tracts may not be abusive or libellous, and may not infringe privacy rights. All tracts are subject to the provisions of the Labour Code.
The Supreme Court has already recognized the right of trade unions to issue tracts via the Internet, although it has not validated an e-tract. Since the late 1990s, trade unions have used the Internet to communicate with employees, setting up websites and intranet sites in conjunction with companies. The bill would allow trade unions to contact employees quickly and conveniently in order to combat the general fall in union membership. However, trade union use of a company’s email and intranet may also be in the company’s interest, as it allows it to monitor trade union activities.
The changes proposed by the bill are mainly legal in nature. The bill would (i) entitle trade unions to use a company’s email and intranet to develop their activities, and (ii) offer legal support to trade unions in the event of any claims related to such use. However, in practice the bill would have little impact, as trade unions already use the Internet to communicate with employees.
The bill will now continue through the legislative process.
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