Collective bargaining and intermediary regulation in France :
the case of mandating employee representatives
Focus is on an aspect of collective bargaining that has received relatively little attention in sociological research : the mandating of employee representatives, an innovative bargaining practice invented in 1995. Designating and accrediting a company employee to negotiate an accord with the employer calls into question union delegate privileges since in principle union delegates have a bargaining monopoly. In France, the employee mandating practice resulted in a massive number of labor accords being reached in connection with the country’s 35-hour work-week law. However, the practice does not comply with the rules and regulations for « traditional » negotiation of company labor accords. What is innovative and original in the practice of mandating employee representatives is that it produces accords that cannot be called « sell-outs » ; the article shows how many of these accords have produced more favorable working conditions than classic accords. Making use of social regulation theory, it presents the results of a combined quantitative-qualitative empirical study : analysis of 1 232 company-specific labor accords reached in the framework of the French 35-hour work-week law is enriched by a series of interviews with representatives of employer and union organizations.