The role of State in employment relations is to achieve social and economic goals for the nation as a whole. The State is the elected and central government which exercises legal control over the population in order to ensure price and financial stability, social cohesion and high levels of employment that guarantee higher living standards for its citizens.
The State of France plays a very strong interventionist role as it focuses on regulating employment relationship through decentralized collective bargaining in hope of establishing a framework for dialogue and negotiation between employers and trade unions. Traditionally, there existed a well-known reluctance of unions and employers to use voluntary agreements. However, unions pressed for legislation when the left was in ascendancy and since the 1960s, there has been a close link between the formulation of industrial law and outcomes of collective bargaining. Industrial laws are now based on the content of collective agreements and/or the outcomes of tripartite discussions. The State introduces a shift in the regulatory responsibility from legislation to collective bargaining.
The French State also acts as a major employer that provides employment for approximately 5 million public service employees, exerts influence on private sector pay rates and legislates increases in the national minimum wage (Salaire Minimum Interprofessionel de Croissance). Additionally, the State also has a mediating role between capital and labour. The development of the Aubry Law allowed for the boost of collective bargaining at the sectoral and enterprise levels encouraging unions and employers to negotiate agreements on wages, working time and recruitment.
In France, the State’s activism along with its interventions on the relationship between policy making and bargaining on a range of social and economic issues, is represented by the political ideology of “social liberalism”.
In comparison to France, the State of Mexico’s most central role is regulating the working conditions of the labour force as well as the labour market on a social, economical and political level. State regulation on the labour market is very important as it adopts lengthy pieces of legislation to cover individual and collective labour relations. The State uses the Mexican Constitution (Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos) to recognize the rights related to working terms and conditions. In addition, it demands the State to act as a guardian of the weaker workers and their wish for trade union representation. There exists a strong tradition of state intervention and political mobilization in trade union life.
As well as in France, the Mexican State acts as a mediator between capital and labour. However, instead of shifting the regulatory responsibility to collective bargaining, the State functions in an overall civil law setting in which it uses its traditions and legislation to regulate beneficial relationships that ensure the protection and rights of individual workers. Nonetheless, the coverage of labour law is narrowed due to an increase in the number of workers in non-wage forms of employment without social security. Mexico follows a neoliberal reform leading the existing deregulation increase the amount of atypical contracts which include temporary employment and services contracts.
In Mexico, the industrial relations system is constitutionalized and making its way to a more autonomous organize labour movement in which it promises to improve workers’ voices and protect them.
CULTURAL CONTEXT – FRANCE AND MEXICO
Over the years, the culture in France has influenced the population’s behaviour and opportunities in labour management and employment relations. In the mid-19th century, the country underwent a period of social and economic change as the society shifted from a large agricultural based economy to industrialization and urbanisation. French employment relations finally started developing. In 1884, the law recognized the freedom of association and form unions followed by the right of collective agreement in 1919. Collective bargaining started at the sectoral level followed by the inter sectoral level and finally due to the Auroux laws, collective bargaining is now allowed at the workplace level. The French industrial relations dominated by strong State intervention is based on a tradition of a prominent presence of anarchists and revolutionary socialists within the labour movement combined with a strong paternalistic attitude of employers.
The system in France is fragmented and adversarial due to the lack of mutual recognition between the social partners which in turn led to five national union confederations: La confédération générale du travail (CGT), La confédération française démocratique du travail (CFDT), La force ouvrière (FO), La confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens (CFTC) et La confédération française de l’encadrement-confédération générale des cadres (CFE-CGC). These unions confederations granted the status of « representative unions » by public authorities and most importantly, independence from employers. Nowadays, the influence of unions varies, even if they are more influential in the public sector, they can be active and influential in large companies or rarely present in small and medium enterprises where they are largely opposed by employers.
In comparison to France, Mexico’s culture is based on bureaucracy along with state intervention which has been inherited from former colonial powers. Consequently, trade unions have very little power and are hardly representative of workers therefore rely on their relationship with the State. The success and recognition of the two major unions nowadays, CTM (Confederación de Trabajadores de México) and UNT (Unión Nacional de Trabajadores), reflect the historical presence and close relation with the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional). The latter is a Mexican revolutionary party founded in 1929 by president Plutarco Elias Calles which lasted seventy years and allowed the establishment of labour laws which reflect the right Mexican labour workers to associate and form unions, engage in collective bargaining and employment rights. The PRI played a significant role in the Mexican political system allowing the shift from an elite and mostly military system to a mass-based system. By the 1930s and 40s, organized labour was a central component of the regime.