EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

France: EIRO CAR on the Changing Business Landscape in the Electricity sector and Industrial Relations in Europe

About

Country: 
France
Sector: 
Electrical
Author: 
Sebastian Schulze-Marmeling
Institution: 
IRShare

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Employment in the French electricity sector has been growing rapidly over the last few years, and the trend is expected to continue. The sector was privatised in the early 2000s and underwent some restructuring. Nevertheless, the former state-owned companies remain dominant. Although data on trade union presence is scarce, there is a functioning social dialogue with several sectoral agreements signed every year, supplemented by a number of company agreements. The dominance of big companies, and the possibility of extension mechanisms ensure a high level of collective bargaining coverage throughout all subsectors. The role of social dialogue is, however, largely limited to terms and conditions of employment. Policy issues are rarely discussed.

1. General background information on the energy policy in your country and employment trends

1.1. Please explain briefly the main governmental strategies/action in relation to the electricity production and energy source mix. In your answer, please include information on the following aspects, where possible:

  • Is there an outspoken policy or plan in your country for any kind of change towards an increase or decrease of electricity production with any of the different sources (coal, oil, gas, hydro, eolic, sun, etc.)?
  • Which is the targeted energy mix for the future (see material provided)? How, in which subsequent steps, such targets are expected to be met?
  • Are investments in networks (new connections, upgrade) envisaged? To what extent? With which specific goals?
  • What is the Government stance and what are the ongoing/envisaged action towards generation of electricity from the different broad groups of sources: nuclear /fossile /renewable energy?
  • What are the recent employment trends in the different subsectors of power generation according to the different broad groups of sources: nuclear/fossile/renewable energy? Please indicate development since 2005 with reference to generation, disribution, and sale separately.

The main policy document in France that deals with the future of electricity production is the Law Nr. 2005-781 that came into effect on 13 July 2005. It main components aim at the reduction of energy consumption and the development of a diversified energy mix. The progress in attaining these goals is measured by the following indicators:

  • Reduction of energy consumption by 2% by 2015, and by 2.5% between 2015 and 2030;
  • Production of 10% of the domestic energy consumption through renewable sources by 2010;
  • Production of 21% of the domestic electricity consumption through renewable sources by 2010;
  • Increase of the production of thermal reservoirs by 50%;
  • Increase the proportion of agrofuel and other renewable types of fuel for transport by 5.75% by the end of 2008, 7% by the end of 2010, and 10% by the end of 2015;
  • Elaboration of research on the efficacy of renewable energy

The same piece of legislation also introduced tax reductions for the use of energy-saving technologies in construction (for more detailed information, see here).

Employment in the energy sector increased substantially over the last three years and is now slightly above the proportion for the EU (see Figure 1). A study conducted by the Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (Agence de l'environnement et de la maîtrise de l'énergie, Ademe) estimates that, in 2007, 24,000 people are employed in the renewable energy sector. The headcount is expected to increase to 120,000 workers in 2012.

Figure 1 - Employment in electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply as proportion of total workforce

Figure 1 - Employment in electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply as proportion of total workforce

Source: own calculations based on data from Eurostat

1.2. Government policy for increase of the share of renewable resources according to the RES directive

  • Are any subsidies being granted for different types of RES for electricity providers? If yes, please provide briefly the details
  • Have subsidies for RES been cut recently? Was this a result of the crisis, of budget constraints, or the result of a policy revision (following a policy assessment, due to a disporportionate use of subsidies, etc.)? Please provide brief details.
  • Are there any other forms of support foreseen for promoting electricity generation of RES?
  • Please include any other aspects you consider to be worth mentioning regarding the state of play and the future prospects of RES in your country.

The French National Action Plan includes the following measures directly aimed at electricity providers:

  • Modification of administrative process: Simplification for small renewable electricity or heating production projects; better environmental consideration for large projects (photovoltaics, wind power, biomass)
  • Tariffs for the purchase of electricity produced from renewable energy sources and negotiable certificates: Increase in the number of projects for the production of renewable electricity
  • Calls for projects for the production of renewable electricity: Increase in the installed capacity for the production of renewable electricity (wind power, offshore wind power, biomass, photovoltaic, maritime energies)

Moreover, a regional plan for the connection of renewable energies to the grid is to be elaborated. Special attention is also paid to the development of networks that can distribute renewable energy, whose production capacities are typically more decentralised than conventional power sources. The costs of adapting networks to renewable energy are to be shared between electricity producers and network managers. Furthermore, producers of renewable energy are guaranteed access to the electricity network. More indirect measures support the use of energy from renewable resources in the electricity sector.

1.3. Are there any studies and documents assessing the employment impact of energy policies and of prospective changes in the energy mix within the electricity sector? This could include, for instance,

  • Employment effects resulting from the unbundling of activities (production from distribution)
  • Employment effects (on quantity and quality of work) resulting from the possible shifts within the electricity production sector from traditional sources to RES
  • Employment effects from investments in infrastructure (renewal of grids, introduction of smart meter technology, district heating)
  • The need for retraining of workers or provision of new qualifications linked to the sector transformations
  • Possible spatial mobility of workers as a result of more decentralised production (linked both to new activities and to restructuring of existing ones)
  • Please include any other aspects you consider to be worth mentioning regarding prospective impacts on employment and industrial relations

The EmployRES study estimates that the gross increase in employment due to the expansion of renewable energies (no-policy scenario). A study conducted by the Center for Strategic Analysis (Centre d’analyse stratégique, CAS), a government agency that advices the French prime minister, finds that “green growth” will boost employment both directly and indirectly in the renewable energy sector, but also in fields related to increasing energy efficiency. The report does not, however, make quantitative predictions about the extent of job creation stating that this depends on their implementation at regional level. CAS finds that France’s technological advances are rather in the water and waste sectors than in renewable energies. The growth in employment in the “green sector” is characterised by a dominance of “local jobs” that cannot be delocalised to another country. On the downside, CAS also considers the loss of employment in other sectors, in particular conventional energy production, which creates costs that need to be taken into account when assessing the ‘net benefit’ of greening the industry. The study quotes other research that has tried to assess the growth of employment in renewable energy more precisely. The results include:

  • A study by the Boston Consulting Group that predicts 134,000 new jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2020
  • Research by the WWF that estimates the creation of 316,000 new jobs due to the development of renewable energy, but also a negative employment growth of 138,000 in conventional energy production

Another study conducted by the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Agence de l’Environnement et la Maîtrise de l’Energie, ALEME) predict a total job growth related to energy transformation of 218,500 by 2012. Most of the increase is, however, due to all industries dealing with increasing energy efficiency, in particular with regards to the residential sector (renovating houses in order to make them more energy-efficient, for instance). Renewable energy is expected to create 67,200 jobs by 2012, including 52,600 jobs in the development and 14,600 jobs in the distribution of renewable energies.

1.4 To what extent are the social partners involved or consulted concerning the governmental energy policy, notably in relation to employment impacts? Has this happened on an ad-hoc basis or on a structural, permanent basis? Is there a special tripartite social dialogue body for such consultations? Did consultation take place at national level, at sector level, or at the initiative of individual companies? Please briefly provide details.

There is no evidence for the involvement of French social partners in the formulation of the National Action Plan for the Promotion of Renewable Energies. Similarly, no interprofessional collective agreement that deals with renewable energy could be identified.

2. Composition, structure and employment trends for the different resources used for electricity production

2.1 Please give an overview of the current sectoral composition of electricity production in your country, by giving for each of these seven groups of energy sources, the NAME of the three largest producing, the NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES of these companies, and the public or private STATUS of the EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP with their employees.

For all companies listed, as a summary, please indicate:

  1. Total production and its distribution across different energy sources
  2. Total employment and its distribution across different energy sources
  3. Production plants and their respective energy source(s)
Electricity production

Electricity production with

TOP 3

PRODUCING COMPANIES

(the largest 3 in market share)

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES

Reference year for the number of employees

Private/Public STATUS of WORKERS

FOSSIL FUELS

GDF Suez

114,000

2010

Both

Électricité de France

105,393

2010

Both

e.on

1,077

2010

Private

NUCLEAR

Électricité de France

105,393

2010

Both

Areva

26,823

2010

Private

Alstom

54,746

2011

Private

HYDRO

Électricité de France

105,393

2010

Both

GDF Suez

114,000

2010

Both

Compagnie nationale du Rhône (CNR)

1,337

2010

Both

WIND

GDF Suez

114,000

2010

Both

Poweo

376

2010

Private

Électricité de France

105,393

2010

Both

BIOMASS

Électricité de France

105,393

2010

Both

GDF Suez

114,000

2010

Both

Effectif

227

2007

Private

PHOTO-VOLTAIC

Électricité de France

105,393

2010

Both

Solairedirect

150

?

Private

Société Solarezo

>100

?

Private

2.2 Please provide an overview of the current oganisation of electricity distribution in your country. Is there a single distributing company/body? Are there multiple companies? At national or territorial level?

The French Electricity Distribution System (Électricité Réseau Distribution France, ERDF) manages 95% of the distribution grid in France. Électricité de France (EDF) holds 100% of ERDF. The other 5% are managed by some 160 small local distribution companies (Entreprises Locales de Distribution, ELD), which have a total workforce of about 5,000 people. The French high-voltage transmission system is managed by the Electricity Transmission Network (Réseau de Transport d'Électricité, RTE), which is also a subsidiary of EDF.

2.3 Please indicate the NAME of the three largest distributing companies, the NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES of these companies, and the public or private STATUS of the EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP with their employees.

Distribution companies
 

TOP 3

DISTRIBUTING COMPANIES

(the largest 3 in market share)

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES

Reference year for the number of employees

Private/Public STATUS of WORKERS

Distribution GRID

ERDF

105,393

2010

Private

       
       

2.4. Where there any significant developments/changes since 2008 for a specific company or source of electricity production in numbers of employees or in their public/private status? Was this due to the current economic crisis? Were there any instances of unbundling or mergers? With what consequences in terms of employment and industrial relations?

The most significant change was the merger of water supply and treatment, waste management and energy company Suez and power firm Gaz de France (GDF). The result was GDF Suez, now a major player on the French energy market. GDF existed as a private company before, but was owned to 80% by the French state, which made the merger subject to high-level policy debate.

3. Industrial relations in the electricity sector: Actors

3.1 Please provide details on the membership in the electricity sector and membership of the top 3 producing and distributing companies in employer’s organisation (see questions 2.1-2.3 above). Please provide information on the name of the trade unions organising in this subsector and the level of their membership, or otherwise provide overall data but please include indications on differences in membership densities across subsectors.

The principal employers’ organisation in the electricity sector is the French Electricity Union (Union Française de l’Électricité, UFE). Some of the big companies in the sector are a member of the UFE. The organisation is active in political lobbying and conducts collective bargaining with the trade unions active in the sector. UFE is also the only French member of EURELECTRIC, the European employers’ organisation for the electricity sector, and a member of the Movement of French Employers (Mouvement des Entreprises de France, MEDEF). The organisation claims to organise more than 500 enterprises with over 150,000 employees and an annual turnover of €40 billion. There is a similar association for employers in the gas sector, namely the National Union of Employers in the Gas Industry (Union nationale des employeurs des industries gazières, UNEmIG). Both organisations have a joint committee to conduct sectoral collective bargaining on their behalf (see below).

Other employers’ associations in the electricity sector include the Federation of Environmental Energy Services (Fédération des Services Energie Environnement, FEDENE), Group of Providers of the Electronic Industry (Groupement des Fournisseurs de l'Industrie Electronique, GFIE), Union of Producers of Electrical Equipment, Systems, Services and Solutions (Syndicat des fournisseurs d'équipements, systèmes, services et solutions électriques, Gimélec), Union of Electric and Climatic Enterprises (Syndicat des Entreprises de génie électrique et climatique, SERCE).

Trade unions in the sector are highly fragmented. All representative union confederations are present in the sector, but most of them have subsections at sectoral, or even company level. The representative unions are represented by their sectoral organisations:

  • General Confederation of Labour (Confédération générale du travail, CGT): CGT Federation of Mining and Energy (Fédération CGT des Mines et de l’Énergie, FNME-CGT)
  • French Democratic Confederation of Labour (Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT): Federation of Chemicals and Energy (Fédération Chimie Énergie, FCE-CFDT)
  • Workers’ power (Confédération Générale du Travail - Force Ouvrière, CGC-FO): Energy and Mines (FO Énergie et Mines)
  • French Christian Workers’ Confederation (Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens, CFTC): Federation of Chemicals, Mining, Textile and Energy (Fédération Chimie Mines Textile Energie, CFTC-CMTE)
  • General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff - General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff (Confédération française de l'encadrement - Confédération générale des cadres, CFE-CGC): Federation of Electric and Gas Industries (Fédération des Industries électriques et gazières, IEG) and Union of engineers, managers, technicians, and foremen in the nuclear industry (Syndicat des ingénieurs, cadres, techniciens, agents de maîtrise et assimilés de l'énergie atomique, SICTAM CGC)

In addition, most of the unions have specialised branches in the big electricity enterprises. There is, for instance, a Union of CGT affiliated trade unions in the Areva group (Union des syndicats CGT du groupe AREVA, US CGT AREVA).

Trade union representation and Membership to employers’ organisation
FOSSIL FUELS

GDF Suez

UFE

CGT, CFDT, FO,

CFTC-CMTE

Électricité de France

UFE

e.on

UFE

NUCLEAR

Électricité de France

UFE

CGT, CFDT, FO,

CFTC-CMTE

Areva

 

Alstom

Gimélec

HYDRO

Électricité de France

UFE

CGT, CFDT, FO,

CFTC-CMTE

GDF Suez

UFE

Compagnie nationale du Rhône (CNR)

UFE

WIND

GDF Suez

UFE

CGT, CFDT, FO,

CFTC-CMTE

Poweo

UFE

Électricité de France

UFE

BIOMASS

Électricité de France

UFE

CGT, CFDT, FO,

CFTC-CMTE

GDF Suez

UFE

Effectif

 
PHOTO-VOLTAIC

Électricité de France

UFE

CGT, CFDT, FO,

CFTC-CMTE

Solairedirect

 

Société Solarezo

 
And in the distributing companies

Distribution GRID

companies

ERDF

UFE

CGT, CFDT, FO,

CFTC-CMTE

   
   

4. 3.2 To what extent are employees in the different subsectors (fossil/nuclear/RES) covered by trade union representation? Has there been any impact of the crisis on trade union representation?

Due to the high level of fragmentation there are no data available on union membership and/or density (cf. FR0702019Q).

3.3 Have there been major reorganisations/splits/mergers of trade unions or employers organisations in the sector during the last five years?

3.4. Have new actors (trade unions or employers organisations) been founded in recent years, especially in the newly evolving RES industries? Or is the industry covered by established actors?

Among all important employers’ organisations, UFE is the ‘youngest’ organisation, founded in 2000. The other bodies have all been established earlier, notably FEDENE in 1991, Gimélec in 1971, GFIE in 1968, and SERCE in 1922.

New unions could not be identified. This is not surprising because union confederations in France are primarily divided by political differences and not by sector.

3.5. Have the established sectoral actors (both trade unions and employer organisations) started any initiative to extend their representation to the new emerging parts of the sector? Please describe such initiatives and their results so far.

As the table above shows, the electricity sector in France is dominated by well-established enterprises in which trade unions have been present previously.

4. Role of collective bargaining and social dialogue

4.1 Please provide information on the structure of collective bargaining in the electricity sector. Please, briefly mention the main characteristics of collective bargaining:

  • At what level are collective agreements within the subsectors of the electricity sector (traditional providers, newly emerging providers) concluded (company, sectoral level and/or inter-sectoral level)? Is there a difference between the producers and the distributors?
  • Estimate the coverage rate of collective bargaining in terms of companies and employees: are there any differences in coverage across different subsectors of electricity production?

Collective bargaining in the electricity sector in France is a relatively recent phenomenon. Like in a number of other countries the gas and electricity sector was nationalised after the Second World War. As a consequence, two state-owned companies were created, EDF (electricity) and GDF (gas). The law that created these structures also postulated that no collective bargaining is to be conducted in the sector and unions only had a consultative role. This changed gradually in 1982 when legal reforms allowed for some form of company negotiations. Comprehensive sectoral collective bargaining, however, is only possible since the liberalisation of the energy and gas markets and the privatisation of EDF and GDF in 2000. In the same year, big electricity companies created the UFE, the main employers’ association and collective bargaining agent in the electricity sector (see above). Similarly, employers in the gas sector formed UNEmIG in the same year. The first collective agreement was concluded in 2001.Since then collective bargaining exists at three different levels. At the sectoral level, UFE and UNEmIG form a joint commission (Secrétariat des Groupements d'Employeurs des Industries Electriques et Gazières, SGE-IEG) in order to negotiate with the five representative unions in the sector and, eventually, sign collective agreements. Since 2004 social partners are entitled to negotiate the national basic pay (salaire national de base, SNB) for the sector. Signed agreements directly apply to all companies that are a member of UFE and UNEmIG. In addition, one of the bargaining parties may then decide to ask for an extension of the agreement. The bipartite Higher National Staff Commission (Commission Supérieure Nationale du Personnel, CSNP) issues an opinion to the ministries in charge, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Energy, which may then extent the agreement to the whole sector. The extension process is extensively used in the gas and electricity sector and is very similar to extension procedures in place in other sectors. In addition, specific company and workplace agreements may be concluded between social partners. The principle of favourability (principe de faveur) towards the employee applies in principle, although the 2004 Fillon law reform allows for exceptions (FR0404105F).

According to the joint the SGE-IEG’s 2010 annual report, 62 sectoral agreements have been signed between 2001 and 2010. The most prominent topics of these agreements were the administration of industrial relations (18), wages and pay (15), pensions (7), employee saving schemes (6), gender equality (3), working time and working conditions (2), and employment and training (2).

Due to the persisting dominance of EDF and GDF, and the existence of the extension clause, collective bargaining coverage was at 99.1% in 2004 (most recent data available). There is no evidence that would indicate that this has changed dramatically since then. The 2004 Fillon law might, however, have shifted parts of the bargaining from sectoral to company level. It is worth noting, however, that a significant number of the employees working for EDF and GDF still have the status of public sector employees. These workers are covered by provision decided by management after consultation with the trade unions. In 2004, 63.7% of all employees in the sector were covered by such regulations, 34.8% by a sectoral agreement (possibly supplemented with a company agreement), and 0.6% by a company agreement only.

4.2 Please comment on the most recent collective agreements reached at sector level and at company level. Please address the following topics:

  • Pay and working time: level and trends relative to the national average and significant differences across subsectors of the electricity industry.

In 2010, the following sectoral agreements were concluded:

  • unanimous agreement on bonuses and severance payments for 2010 (15th June 2010)
  • unanimous agreement on the prevention of socio-psychological risks (15th February)
  • agreement on reforming pension schemes (16th April)
  • unanimous agreement on additional health care provisions (6th June)
  • agreement on the accumulation of employment (3rd September)
  • two supplementary agreements on employee saving schemes (1st October 2010)
  • unanimous agreement on bonuses and severance payments for 2011 (9th December 2010)

In addition, survey based research conducted by UFE identified 241 company-level agreements. 27% of these agreements dealt with financial participation of and saving schemes for employees, 20% with employee representation, 16% with remuneration issues (individual pay increases and bonuses), and 14% with working time, in particular with regards to adaption to working time legislation and working-time accounts.

The latest pay agreement was concluded on 19th November 2009. It set an average wage increase of 2.8% for 2010. The agreed average rise of the SNB was set at 1.2%, seniority wage should increase by 0.6%, and wages according to occupational groups by 0.3%. 0.7% of the increase was to be realised through individual pay rises. At the time of the agreement, inflation for 2010 was expected to be 1.2%. The agreement was, however, only signed by two representative unions (FCE-CFDT and CFE-CGT). After negotiations for 2011 failed in December 2010 the employers’ associations decided unilaterally to increase the SNB by 1.1% and a minimum of 0.7% for individual pay increases.

Since 1999 weekly working time in France is set to 35 hours by law (FR9910197N). Numerous collective agreements in subsequent years have dealt with the reduction of working time. In recent years, working time negotiations have been conducted either in terms of either compliance with national regulation, or the introduction of schemes to introduce elements of flexibility into the organisation of working time, for instance through working-time accounts. A prominent and very recent example is the proposed agreement between ERDF, the gas distribution company GrDF, and the representative unions. This agreements, if signed eventually, would be the first working time agreement in the sector since 1999. It includes three different working-time schemes between which employees could chose. Moreover, some work-life balance provisions were included. As of early November 2011 the agreement is not signed yet. The CGT, for instance, stated in a recent note to its members that a decision had yet to be taken.

4.3. Cooperation between the social partners and government

  • Have the government started any social dialogue or social concentration in the electricity sector since 2008? Please illustrate the features and results of any such initiatives.
  • Have bipartite and/or tripartite bodies dealing with specific issues of the electricity industry been created since 2008?
  • Have there been since 2008 any joint initiatives of cooperation between social partners to influence or steer the energy policy developed by the government in your country? Or have such initiatives been taken separately by certain social partner organisations?
  • Have the social partners been involved in the making of the national action plan to reach the 2020 target, or in issues aiming to secure the supply of enough electricity?

The last major rounds of government consultation took place in 2007 when the special retirement schemes of, among others, the formerly state-owned energy companies (FR0411102N) were reformed. The reforms were pursued against the protest of most unions.

The government has, however, an indirect role in the big companies as the state is still the principal shareholder of EDF (84.5% of the stocks), and the largest shareholder of GDF Suez (35.7%).

4.4. Please provide information about the views of the trade unions and employer organisations on the main changes regarding employment and working conditions affecting the sector since 2008 and especially on the impact of the current crisis (for instance on employment trends, quality of jobs, working hours, wages, fixed-term employment, part-time, temporary agency work, participation in training, outsourcing, subcontracting etc.).

Although the rhetoric sometimes has a radical touch, the degree of cooperation in the sector seems to be relatively high. Whereas the opposition against the liberalisation of the electricity market was pronounced among unions – two voted in favour of the proposal (CFE-CGC and CFTC), two against it (CGT and FO) and the CFDT abstained – the overall agreement with the results of collective bargaining seems to be relatively high. Figure 2 depicts the percentage of agreements signed by trade union confederation. As the figure shows, the FO has the lowest agreement rate, but it signed two-third of all sectoral agreements nonetheless (see above for a summary of issues that were covered by these agreements). A controversial issue, however, remains pay. As discussed above, agreement with annual pay increases was very low since the beginning of the crisis. The pre-crisis pay agreement for 2008 was signed by all but one union (FO).

Figure 2 – Percentage of Sectoral Agreements Signed (n=62) by Trade Union Confederateion, Gas and Electricity Sector, 2001 - 2010

Figure 2 – Percentage of Sectoral Agreements Signed (n=62) by Trade Union Confederateion, Gas and Electricity Sector, 2001 - 2010

Source: SGE-IEG Annual Report

5. Commentary

The major event in the recent development of industrial relations in the French electricity sector was the privatisation of the formerly state-owned companies in 2000. As discussed above, this has changed the function of social dialogue and, in particular, sectoral collective bargaining. The emergence of ‘new’ sources of energy, on the contrary, seems to have a limited impact on industrial relations. Two main reasons can help to explain this.

First, sectoral collective bargaining remains strong and most of the major employers in the sector participate. Moreover, the bargaining parties usually make use of the erga omnes clause and ask for an extension of the agreement to the whole industry. Thus, they make sure that those employers that are not member of one of the negotiating employers’ associations are bound by the agreement as well. A coverage rate of more than 90% is the result of this strong institutional support mechanism for collective bargaining.

Second, the landscape of the electricity sector is still dominated by the former state-owned companies that have a longstanding tradition of social dialogue. Hence, company agreements in these organisations cover a large proportion of the employees in the sector. Moreover, as data from the SGE-IEG show, there are also numerous and extensive company agreements in other parts of the electricity sector.

Sebastian Schulze-Marmeling, IRShare