Very much weakened by a decline of union density and an ever growing tendency to divisions, are the French Trade Unions still playing a key role within the employment relations system of the country? Are they still capable to affect positively upon the outcome of collective bargaining? This paper will examine the efficiency of the union movement by analysing its strategies in two different cases. In the agency sector, where the trade unions have finally agreed to exchange their acceptance of that kind of precarious jobs they once rejected against a few social rights. And in two firms which were in the process of restructuring due to the economic crisis of 2008 and in which they acted as partners to the firms when jobs were cut, in return to small advantages. These two research fields are quite different in their scales and temporality. They are based on the one hand on the analysis of the texts of the collective agreements and on the other hand on the interviews of the unionists who were directly concerned/affected. But both exemplify the same logic of instrumentalization of the trade unions. They are squeezed between trying to exist as part of the collective bargaining and more often being reduced to defensive postures where their choice for the lesser evil leads to the risk of being used, to finish one day by being more and more circumvented by the on going reforms of the Labour Code.
Keywords: Trade unions, struggles, bargaining, trap, instrumentalization, power relationship, temporary work, firms, mass lay-offs