L'auteur décrit et interprète le particularisme de la procédure d'arbitrage des conflits collectifs du travail en France qui offre l'image contradictoire de l'échec des modalités officielles de règlement et de la vertu des procédures informelles.
Two facts appear when one attempts to report on results from arbitration and procedures to settle labor conflicts in France:
On one hand, legal procedures are not very much used though this was not always the case. In 1936, for example, in a very particular situation, they produced quite good results. Compulsory conciliation and facultative arbitration established after 1950 are not very much used. In the same way, mediation based on American procedure introduced in 1955, was at first well accepted by social partners then increasingly less.
On the other Labour Inspection is often used and efficient, though it is only a substitute for legal procedure. This can be proved by statistical analyses made on datas obtained from the Ministry of Labour compared with other variables such as size of enterprise, reasons for and results of strikes, etc.
To explain the failure of official procedures and the relative success of unofficial ones, two kinds of factors may be involved:
Technically, official legal procedures are cumbersome, slow and reinforce oppositions rather than eliminate them. Members of those institutions cannot consult people at the grass-roots level as is more and more done in the French "professional relations" system. In the other case, the Labour Inspector is well informed and can intervene effectively at the right moment. The confidence with which he is regarded and his professional practices allow him to suggest possible compromises between opposing parties.
As regards ideology, there is strong opposition to forced procedures. Employers are sensitive to the market economy and wish to preserve their independence and authority. Trade unions are divided and afraid of loosing their right to strike and possibility of negotiating. The adaptability of the Labour Inspector’s role is much more compatible with compromise. Remote procedures may not be in force again in spite of the collective negotiations and settlements of labour conflicts Law Project, considered too far removed from present professional practices.
Could the Labour Inspector go further through institutionalization of his conciliation functions or specialization in conciliation methods? Probably not. More than lack of means, it is the difference between control and conciliation methods which separates interested opposing groups within Labour Inspection due to long-established hierarchical and trade union problems. This is especially the case when collective pay-offs increase altering the relationships between the Minister of Labour and the Labour Inspector. In summary, in spite of the French tradition of using legal procedures, empirical solutions are more and more acceptable as they are well received by social partners and compatible with the permanent negotiations of the French "professional relations".
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