This contribution provides the context to French employment relations and Eric Batstone’s illuminating description of the French worker–employer, plant-level interface in the 1970s. The 1970s represented a transition decade between the post-war boom and the significantly lower levels of growth and higher levels of unemployment that set in from the 1980s. In France, as in Britain, the 1970s was a decade of trade-union growth. The numbers of private-sector strikes are shown from 1960 to 1999, as is the evolution of the wage-share of GDP in both France and the UK. The article discusses why French workers have never joined French trade unions in the same numbers as occurred in Britain, and yet are ready to accept the use of minority direct action and to support mass strikes.