Why teleworking is not the “anti-strike” weapon that some dream of

Considered as “the absolute anti-strike weapon” by the executive, telework has not had the desired effect on the mobilizations against the pension reform.


Strikes bother employees less thanks to telework.
© Julien Mattia / Le Pictorium / MAXPPP / Le Pictorium/Maxppp

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VS’is a short sentence, slipped by a majority executive before the start of the mobilizations against the pension reform: teleworking would be “the absolute anti-strike weapon”. An assertion that must be put into perspective, according to the unions and the employers. “We do not at all endorse this idea of ​​an anti-strike weapon,” said AFP Jean-Eudes du Mesnil, secretary general of the CPME, the confederation of SMEs. But “that it bothers the employees less, it’s a reality, so much the better, we’re not going to complain about it”.

Same observation on the union side. In Paris, “the proliferation of mobility alternatives and the phenomenon of teleworking enormously reduce the impact of a strike”, told Agence France-Presse Arole Lamasse, secretary general of Unsa-RATP.

READ ALSOBanners, closures and payment for strike days: town halls outlawed? Since the winter of 2019-2020 and the historic long strike led by RATP agents against the previous pension reform, the Covid has been there, pushing public and private employers to widely extend telework. In January 2021, 27% of employees practiced it, compared to 4% in 2019, according to a study by Dares, the department in charge of statistics dependent on the Ministry of Labor, published in February 2022.

A vision “centered on Île-de-France”

In the stations, many are the employees who adapt more or less gracefully to the strike by anticipating staying at home. “Tomorrow, I will telecommute. I can do it, so for me it’s fine. But that’s still not the case for everyone. What is painful are the trains canceled the day before, ”explained on January 30 in Paris François Coen, a 41-year-old communication consultant.READ ALSO January 31 strike: the Nuñez method put to the test

Deputy Vice-President of the ANDRH (National Association of HRDs), Benoît Serre however warns against a vision “very centered on Île-de-France”, where 40% of positions are “teleworkable”. “If the strike begins to multiply every week or several days in a row, the weapon will become dull”, he notes, because this “disorganizes companies and prevents certain activities, seminars for example”.

Businesses are adapting

For Jean-Eudes du Mesnil, of the CPME, as the strike lasts, “the impact is growing”. For the time being, the transport unions have not resorted to the renewable strike. Director General of Medef Île-de-France, Marie-Sophie Ngo Ky remarks that while many positions are “teleworking” in the Paris region, employees there are “extremely dependent” on public transport: “more than 75% of people who work take them,” she says.

“All of our member companies are disrupted by strike days, even if for nearly a quarter of them, the disruptions are minimal,” according to a survey conducted by Medef Île-de-France. To compensate for the effects of the strike, 25% of companies say they are ready to pay for their employees’ taxi/VTC costs, 15% for hotel nights, according to this survey. But this has “a cost”.

The effect of telework is not limited to lessening the “blocking” capacity of trade unions. It is also more “difficult to reach employees” who work from home and therefore to mobilize them during an action, notes Fabrice Angei, CGT confederal secretary. This “also has an influence on participation in strikes: the more possible and widespread it is in the company, the more employees will choose to resort to it rather than to strike”, analysis with the Point the doctor of political sciences Tristan Haute.

READ ALSOTelework, best enemy of the strike? Faced with this new situation, unions must innovate. “We are going to adapt our way of mobilizing: occupation of premises, blocked meetings, right of withdrawal…”, lists Arole Lamasse. “Resistance goes through the petition, going before the prefectures […], the social movement is changing shape”, supports Dominique Corona (Unsa). And “fewer blockages can lead to more sympathy for the movement,” he notes.

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