28. ←. In practice, two years after the reform, nothing has changed and enlargements are still de facto automatic. No extensions were refused and no agreement was reached for large and small businesses. In France – see Carcillo et al. (2019) for more details and a preliminary examination – two important reforms have taken place in recent years. In 2016, the El Khomri (El Khomri Act) strengthened the role of enterprise-level agreements in setting working time, leave and rest. In addition, the threshold has been raised to determine which unions are representative and can sign enterprise-level agreements and the possibility of approving agreements by internal referendum has been introduced. Opt-out clauses in case of economic difficulties aimed at preserving employment ,,, not on wages). In 2018, the law to ratify the September 2017 ordinances continued in order to promote negotiation at the enterprise level, allowing negotiation even in the absence of a union in companies with fewer than 50 employees.
In addition, in companies with fewer than 20 employees, the employer can submit a contract proposal directly to an internal referendum. The reform also aimed to make the extension of sectoral agreements less automatic, taking into account the existence of different provisions depending on the size of the company and introducing the possibility of blocking them for reasons of public interest (particularly when an agreement is used as an anti-competitive instrument against non-signatory companies) based on the evaluation of an ad hoc group of experts. However, two years after the orders, no renewal applications were rejected and no agreement was reached for large and small businesses. The reform of the ordinances merged and tightened the different representations of workers at the enterprise level into one, with the aim of facilitating dialogue at the enterprise level. In 2018, about 82 million workers were members of trade unions in OECD countries and about 160 million were covered by collective agreements, which were concluded either at the national, regional, sectoral, professional or enterprise level. Trade union density, the proportion of trade union employees, varies considerably in OECD countries, ranging from 4.7% in Estonia to 91% in Iceland in 2018. Organized decentralisation (or the controlled form of decentralised collective bargaining) takes two main forms in European countries (Ibsen and Keune, 2018). In the first case, national or sectoral agreements define the general framework, but leave a great deal of room for negotiation at the enterprise or enterprise level (particularly in the Scandinavian countries or the Netherlands): sectors can set minimum or standard employment conditions that complement employers at the enterprise level or from which they can deviate; or to allow workers and employers to choose “a-la-carte” and to balance, if they wish, wages against working conditions. A second form of organised decentralisation is one in which national or sectoral agreements allow and define the conditions for deviation at lower levels through the so-called openness or opt-out clauses (Germany is probably the most remarkable example). However, in other countries, formal regulatory changes in the structure of negotiations have not resulted in a real transfer of power 33 at the enterprise level, but two-stage bargaining structures (Boeri, 2014): in this case, agreements at a higher level continue to dominate, so that collective bargaining at the enterprise level has only one possibility of improving the standards established in national or sectoral agreements (“in melius”) , enterprise-level agreements are governed by the “cheap” principle, which stipulates that a lower-level agreement can only prevail if it improves the conditions of employment of workers.