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Under-Paid Shop Stewards: A Case of Strategic Discrimination?

An Econometric Analysis Using 2010 REPONSE Data
Jérôme Bourdieu et Thomas Breda
Traduction de Andrew Clark
p. 5-30


Instances of discrimination against union members continue to accumulate in France, as can be seen by the multiplication of legal proceedings and judgements against a number of large firms. This qualitative impression was underpinned by the statistical results from the 2004 French REPONSE (Relations professionnelles et négociations d’entreprise) survey (the equivalent of the British Workplace Employment Relations Survey), revealing that, at the same age and education, union representatives are paid around 10% less than their colleagues. We here confirm this result in the 2010 wave of the same survey. Union membership does not suffice to explain these lower wages: it is rather shop stewards, who are the most active in the defence of workers’ interests, who are the most heavily penalised. It is in practice difficult to establish that these workers receive lower wages for reasons other than their union responsibilities. The wage gap for union members who are not representatives is much smaller, at around 4%, while it is in firms that experience conflictual labour relations that shop stewards are paid the least.

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Notes de la rédaction

Article published in French in Travail et Emploi, no 145, janvier-mars 2016.

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Texte intégral disponible via abonnement/accès payant sur le portail Cairn. Le texte intégral en libre accès sera disponible à cette adresse en janvier 2021.
Consulter cet article


Wage and Promotion Gaps between Worker Representatives, Union Members and Other Workers
The Wages of Unionised and Non-Unionised Worker Representatives, and of Unionised Non-Representatives
As in 2004, Shop Stewards Were Less Well-Paid in 2010
Wage Gaps Are Explained by Differences in Promotion
Wage Gaps Are Not Systematic
Why are Shop Stewards Paid Less?
Taste-Based Discrimination
Adverse Selection
Statistical Discrimination
Strategic Discrimination
Self-Censorship of Worker Representatives

Aperçu du texte

In a macroeconomic environment of persistent unemployment and slow growth, the perspective of job loss is frightening, and the defence of workers’ interests can become increasingly difficult. In this context, there has been growing qualitative evidence of discrimination against union members. Since 2000, a number of large French firms have paid out compensation to dozens of individuals following lawsuits alleging union discrimination (Semaine sociale Lamy, 2004).

These particular cases could be exceptional or atypical: the experiences and testimony of these individuals may not correspond to the reality of most workers. However, the results from the analysis of the 2004 Relations professionnelles et négociations d’entreprise (REPONSE) survey carried out by the Direction de l’animation de la recherche, des études et des statistiques (DARES) suggest that this is actually a widespread phenomenon, with a pay gap of around 10% between shop stewards and their non-unionised colleagues, once ...

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Référence papier

Jérôme Bourdieu et Thomas Breda, « Under-Paid Shop Stewards: A Case of Strategic Discrimination? », Travail et Emploi, Hors-série | 2017, 5-30.

Référence électronique

Jérôme Bourdieu et Thomas Breda, « Under-Paid Shop Stewards: A Case of Strategic Discrimination? », Travail et Emploi [En ligne], Hors-série | 2017, mis en ligne le 19 janvier 2018, consulté le 21 novembre 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/travailemploi.7613

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Jérôme Bourdieu

Paris School of Economics (PSE), Institut national de recherche agronomique (INRA) and École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS);

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Thomas Breda

PSE and Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS);

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