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Interview: Pierre Mences of the CFTC TMI interviews Pierre Mences, General Treasurer for the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens, about the CFTC. This article covers the formation of the CFTC, how the Act of 20 August 2008 has changed trade unions in France irrevocably, and the ways in which the CFTC manages its treasury and finances. Pierre Mences also explains why he expects that, from 2011, all trade unions in France will have standardised accounts.

Pierre Mences

 “We are going to bring the competition amongst the banks into play”

General Treasurer, Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens

Lettre du Trésorier

When was the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens formed?

Pierre Mences
CFTC’s history is very closely tied in with the French trade union movement, because the first Christian trade union, the Syndicat des Employés du Commerce et Interprofessionel was formed in 1887, just three years after the Aldeck-Rousseau Act authorising trade unions and professional associations. The Confederation was formed in 1919. Its specific feature lies in its attachment to Christian social values. This consists in economic and social terms of putting the economy to the service of mankind rather than mankind to the service of the economy. It is this principle which guides our trade union activity. The CFTC is often equated with a Christian trade union – this is wrong. The values which drive us - respect for human dignity, solidarity with the weaker, concern for the common good … may be shared by followers of other religions and also atheists or agnostics.

We currently have 140,000 active or retired members, around one thousand professional or geographical structures, strong positions in sectors such as Christian education, commerce and the fire service, and in regions such as Alsace where CFTC membership rate exceeds 30%, Brittany, the regions of the Loire, in addition to Paris and the surrounding area.

The trade unions are sometimes criticised for their opaque financial dealings and the way they use their financial resources…?

PM: Those criticisms are partly justified – even though until very recently, it was right to speak of opaque dealings in the strict sense of the word because there were little or no accounting obligations incumbent on the trade unions. This situation changed profoundly as a result of the Act of 20 August 2008, which caused a major upheaval in the trade union world for both employers and employees. We are all going to have to comply with accounting standards, knuckle down to keeping and publishing accounts at all levels from the units within companies to the confederation, including the regional associations. Not all the implementing decrees have been published yet but from 2011 it is expected that we will have standardised accounts for trade unions. It must be pointed out that the accounts are audited, the technical question currently being the amount of resources we will have.

The CFTC has always been in favour in recent years of legislating on the issue of the finance of trade unions. At one time it was an issue during the work carried out for the Law of August 2008 but unfortunately this fell through.

Given the absence of a regulatory framework how are the finances organised?

PM: There are two types of resource: subsidies, which account for the largest part and members’ subscriptions. The subsidies are directly allocated by the state – for example, the Direction des Relations du Travail pays subsidies in return for a service consisting of training the industrial tribunal advisors.

From 2011 it is expected that we will have standardised accounts for trade unions.

They are also allocated as part of the French system of consultation between employers and the trade unions. If you take the case of the Caisse National d’Allocations Familiales, the CFTC has directors and a certain number of technical advisors. The subscriptions are all paid to the trade unions which pass some of these on to the departmental associations and professional associations, which in turn pass some on to the Confederation. At the end of the chain, approximately 20% of the subscriptions supplement the Confederation’s resources. In the interests of financial efficiency and optimisation, we want to move towards a single-circuit system. At an initial stage, the trade unions will pay the subscriptions to the Confederation, which will redistribute them, before reaching the ultimate system whereby the members pay their subscriptions directly to the central body.

As regards, assets, the Confederation owns its own 2,600 m2 building in the 10th arrondissement in Paris. We also plan to replace the properties of the various Paris structures with a CFTC centre, which would be around 8,000 m2 and which would probably require us to take out a loan.

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