Toward a New Right to Work
The law on 35 hours has been criticized for its authoritarian character. However, says Jacques Barthelemy, the law does not rigidly restrict the working week to 35 hours, nor, if applied, does it require the same level of gross compensation. Instead, the legal and regulatory provisions which were imperatives under the regime of the 40-hour law now become supplemental to collective agreements.
Our author argues, in other words, that this law offers an exceptional opportunity to the actors, across industrial sectors and within individual firms, to define the number of hours worked and the organisation of times of work according to their own convenience, so long as their internal agreement is not obviously contrary to the public interest.
Once this latitude for maneuver is handed over to the parties, it falls on them to define the optimal reconciliation between the constraints of the enterprise and the aspirations of the workers. Thus, by stimulating negotiation, we open the way to a right-to-work covenant which, to the extent that the actors can come to agreement, replaces regulatory provisions.