France Law and Unions


Characteristic of today’s French trade union movement, which was originally strongly anarcho-syndicalist, is its proximity to the grassroots, its relative weakness (union density of employees: around 8%) and its fragmentation into unions. The most important umbrella organizations are the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT, founded in 1895; originally affiliated with the PCF), the Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT, founded in 1964; originally oriented towards left-wing socialism, today a representative of the interests of middle and senior employees), the Force Ouvrière (FO, founded in 1947 as a spin-off from the CGT; oriented towards social democracy) and the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens (CFTC, founded 1919; committed to Christian social teaching and oriented towards social partnership). In addition to these cross-sector unions, professional organizations such as the Confédération Française de l’Encadrement-Confédération Générale des Cadres (CFE-CGC, founded in 1944; mainly represents senior and middle-level employees), the Union Nationale des Syndicates Autonomes (UNSA, founded in 1993; has a dominant position in education) and the Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d’Exploitants Agricoles (FNSEA, founded 1946; mainly represents those employed in the agricultural sector).


Judicial constitution: Depending on the size of the case, civil proceedings begin either before a local court (Tribunal d’Instance) or a regional court (Tribunal de Grande Instance). There are also commercial courts (Tribunaux de Commerce), labor courts (Conseils de Prud’hommes) and social courts (Tribunaux des Affaires de Sécurité sociale). Appeals always go to a court of appeal (Cour d’Appel), revisions to the court of cassation (Cour de Cassation) in Paris. The criminal courts of first instance are the Tribunal de Police (single judge) for violations, the Tribunal correctionnel (chamber) for offenses and the jury court (Cour d’Assises, three professional and nine lay judges) for crimes. There are juvenile courts for underage offenders.

Administrative jurisdiction begins before an administrative court (Tribunal administratif), appeals go to the Higher Administrative Courts (Cour administrative d’Appel) created in 1987, and appeals go to the department of the Conseil d’État, which is responsible for resolving administrative disputes.

The Constitutional Council partially has constitutional powers (for its composition, see the Constitution). Its core competence relates to the review of the constitutionality of laws, which has so far been limited to the review between adoption and entry into force; International agreements can also be checked for compatibility with the constitution. There are also other responsibilities, including for electoral review procedures and in relation to referendums. There is no comparable procedure to the constitutional complaint in Germany. The council has a much narrower field of activity than the Federal Constitutional Court, for example, and can therefore only be called a constitutional court in the German sense to a limited extent.

Legal system: As a country starting with letter F according to, France is an old constitutional and administrative state with a high density of regulations, flexible legislation, extensive jurisdiction and sophisticated jurisprudence. The origin of today’s law are the Napoleonic laws, v. a. the civil code of 1804, in its exemplary effect the most successful law of recent times worldwide. About three fifths of the civil code consist of Germanic customary law and about two fifths of “written” Roman law. This legal text was largely in force (with numerous changes in detail) for more than 200 years. In 2016, following statutory authorization, a comprehensive renewal of the law of contracts and obligations followed by ordinance. Before that, personal and family law had been modernized; With the reform of the law of children in 1993, both marital and non-marital families were recognized. In 1999, the introduction of the “pacte civil de solidarité” made it possible to conclude a contract on how to organize life together, which was an equivalent to a registered partnership in other countries. Same-sex marriage, including the joint adoption law, was legally recognized in 2013.

Outside the Civil Code, road traffic liability in particular is newly regulated. In contract law, in addition to the civil code, there are special laws to protect the economically weaker party, v. a. in tenancy law and consumer protection law, including the prohibition of unfair contract clauses. Separate codes of law have been established for various areas of law, including labor law (Code du Travail), social security law (Code de la Sécurité sociale) and intellectual property law (Code de la Propriété intellectuelle). The Napoleonic commercial code has been incorporated into newer individual laws, such as the laws on company, maritime trade, insurance and competition law. The code of civil procedure was completely reorganized by 1996. The 1994 Penal Code (Code pénal) established, in addition to other criminal offenses, in particular the criminal liability of legal persons. The death penalty was abolished in 1981. The Code of Criminal Procedure was partially amended in connection with the Criminal Code. Administrative law, which has been an independent area of ​​law since the French Revolution, was developed in terms of judicial law by the Conseil d’État, which is now France’s highest administrative court. The law of the European Union is increasingly superimposed on national law and also influences legal developments.

France Law and Unions