The national occupational safety and health protocol will be revised to ask companies to define “a minimum number of days of teleworking per week”, an incentive gesture. The unions regret that the state did not anticipate the second wave better.
Metro, work, sleep: this is, quite literally, the daily agenda sketched by the President of the Republic on Wednesday evening for residents of areas affected by the curfew put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19. “We need companies to function, they need to be present at work”, insisted Emmanuel Macron, refusing any restrictive measure to develop telework. “Where it is possible, when you are in an office where there is no public access, when you are in a company [qui peut] do it […], we will instead encourage people to do – for jobs where it is relevant – two to three days of telework per week. ”
“Encourage people” : the formula says everything about the head of state’s conception of the business world. In reality, it is not “the people” who decide to telework, but their employer. However, the simple “incentive” that has prevailed until now has not met with great success with them, the use of teleworking. having declined considerably in recent weeks. The reason ? Jean-François Foucard, confederal secretary of the CFE-CGC, sums it up in one image: “The state can tell you not to go faster than 90 kilometers an hour on the highway. But as long as the signs say 130, no one will stop you if you go faster. ”
Other than through a reconfinement, it is not certain that the government has the legal means to impose teleworking on private companies, except to expose itself to a judicial counter-attack for infringement of the freedom to undertake. . Does he only want it? “Elisabeth Borne said it very clearly: we did it at the time of confinement, we will not do it again”, assures Angeline Barth, the representative of the CGT who attended a videoconference this Thursday morning by the Minister of Labor with the trade unions and employers. Even within its administrations, the State has so far not taken coercive measures, even if it also asks that two to three days a week be done by teleworking when possible. A way of “give the example” to employers, notes Angeline Barth.
To justify itself to the unions for not taking strong measures, the government relied on epidemiological data. Where some note that 20% of the clusters identified are located in “Private or public companies”, the authorities, supported by experts, answer that these identified clusters represent only a minimal part of all the contaminations.
“A small signal” in the health protocol
The Ministry of Labor will still update its national health protocol, including the latest version date of September 17. From next week he will be there “Asked companies to define a minimum number of days of teleworking per week for positions which allow it”, Elisabeth Borne said at a government press conference on Thursday. “It will still give a little signal”, thinks Catherine Pinchaut, who represented the CFDT at the morning videoconference. “In addition, it was recalled that the protocol had normative value”, adds the national secretary of the confederation. Admittedly, it does not have the same weight as an article of the labor code, “But we know that if at some point there is an appeal, the judge will take into consideration what the protocol says”. In other words, an employer could be exposed to a legal risk if one of its employees who could telework fell ill after being forced to come on site.
How will this translate in practice? True to its mantra, the Ministry of Labor is once again praising the merits of «dialogue social», in perfect alignment with the Medef, whose president Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux tweeted this Thursday morning: “It is in each company that the work organization can be adapted to maintain activity. They have learned to function differently since March thanks to the dialogue. ” This is to forget that in the smallest companies, employees have no representative. And that in the bigger ones, the discussions are not always that fluid.
“We did not take advantage of the period between the two waves”
However, the unions themselves are not necessarily clear on which position to take. The parameters with which to deal are numerous. The confinement revealed large disparities in the way remote work could be experienced and no one denies that for some employees the period resulted in an increase in the workload, coupled with a feeling of isolation or to an impossible management of children. They also stress that an essential part of communication between employees takes place “At the coffee machine”. The defense of a new generalized teleworking would also risk rekindling a feeling of inequality between employees who can work at home, sheltered from the virus, and others, forced to go to the front.
But it would have been possible to tackle this famous “second wave” so often announced under other conditions, regrets Angeline Barth: “What is damaging is that we did not take advantage of the period between the two waves. We got out of confinement without preparing for what was going to happen to us there now. Neither the State nor the companies have prepared for it. ” The cégétiste recalls that all the unions have been calling since April for a new agreement on teleworking both daily and during periods of crisis. After having balked and left hanging out, the employers’ organizations ended up accepting the principle of a discussion the first part of which is set for November 3. Too late ?