While Apple employees in the United States continue to dialog about labor unions and improved working conditions, Paris store employees are in tense negotiations over increased pay and…a drinking fountain. According to sources, talks between the employees’ labor council and Apple have been on-going for several months, and with no agreement in sight, the employees are considering a strike for this Friday when the iPhone 5 launches in France. Many employees of the Opéra and Carrousel du Louvre stores have been wearing green “Believe” wristbands during the past few days to emphasize their resolve over the issues. If the employees do chose to strike, it would be the first such labor action in the chain since Italy employees staged a informational event last October to press for improved pay and working conditions. As reported by MacGeneration.com, employees at the two stores believe their pay is not comparable to other locations, taking into consideration the high cost of living in Paris. Beyond a pay raise, they are asking for a water fountain to be installed at the Louvre store where there is none, and for Apple to issue meal vouchers to offset the high cost of meals in the area surrounding the stores. Promotions and transfers are also on the negotiation table, along with the possibility of a so-called “13th month” payment, or annual bonus to employees. Some employees in the United States are also making note of working conditions this Friday by wearing green wristbands that say “Believe,”part of the Apple Workers Union “Day of Solidarity.”
Employees of the Paris stores agree that they receive a 27 percent discount on Apple hardware. However, they say a pay increase is more important to provide a living wage in the country’s largest city. According to one employee, starting pay has stalled at $24,745 annually.
Ironically, the French retail operation reported a net loss of about $13.0 million for 2011, employees claim, despite the company’s huge overall profits. There is constant pressure to sell, the employees says, and for managers to keep tabs on employees.
French labor laws provide for several layers of contact between employers and employees, all devoted to working conditions, but also focused on improving the business through employee recommendations.
In the first layer, France Apple store employees have been represented by the Comité d’Entreprise since last February, and for a four-year period. In compliance with French labor law, the council’s mission is to “defend and protect” the employees’ interests. The council has a budget provided by Apple, based on a percentage of the global salary paid for all Apple retail employees in the country. The council has an office adjacent to the Opéra store, and has monthly meetings with the Market Leader and national Employee Relations Manager to discuss store concerns. The meetings are usually far less confrontational than American union–management meetings, sources say.
In the second layer, French employees have delegates in each store called Délégués du Personnel. The representatives do not have an office, but also meet monthly with the local store management team.
Lastly, there are Apple employees named by French representative syndicates (unions) called Délégués Syndicaux to defend employee interests and negotiate such things as pay raises and working conditions changes with the ER and Human Resource managers for France. These employees maintain their normal duties at the stores, about are allowed a certain number of hours to work on syndicate business during each month.
Read more about the labor situation (French).