By Roselyn S. Sands & Laurebt-Paul Tour
Ernst & Young Société d’Avocats, Paris
As Europe becomes a reality as opposed to just an idea, more and more workers are freely moving throughout the continent in search of a better life. One can certainly remember the "polish plumber" (one of the stated reasons why the French Referendum on Europe failed) being viewed in France as "unfair competition" with a French worker. Indeed, the French workforce is among the most protected in Europe.
In order to fight against unequal treatment between French and foreign workers, a law of August 2, 2005 (implementing the 1996 EU Directive on the posting of workers) requires the application to foreign workers working in France of French rules on matters including, but not limited to, individual and collective freedoms in the scope of the work relation, working time, leaves, illicit work, minimum wage, night work, the right to strike, health and safety at work.
The scope of this protection has been recently expanded by a Decree of December 11, 2007.
With this new Decree, all persons working in France are entitled to the protection offered by the French industry-wide Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) in the above matters.
Industry-wide CBAs are negotiated between representatives of both employers and employees. They address issues such as working time, working conditions, remuneration, termination conditions, complementary insurance and welfare scheme. Their provisions are more favorable to the employees than what French laws provide on identical matters.
They are binding upon the signatories’ members of the employers’ unions only, but they may be (and usually are) "extended" by the Department of Labor and, therefore, become binding upon all employers which activities fall within the scope of the agreement.
Thus, the December 2007 Decree requires the application to foreign workers of industry-wide CBAs when such industry-wide CBAs are applicable to employees working for companies implanted in France which perform a similar activity.
 Law n° 2005-882 of August 2, 2005
 Directive n° 96/71 of December 16, 1996
 Decree n° 2007-1739 of December 11, 2007