French President Emmanuel Macron is driving ahead with a package of decrees to dismantle trade union rights, collective agreements and job security. Olivier Delbeke presents a summary of the fight against these decrees.
A first call for action on 12 September brought together the CGT, FSU and Solidaires trade union federations who were joined by a very large majority of the local organisations of the FO trade union federation, who were voting with their feet against the anti-mobilisation policies of their general secretary JC Mailly and the federal FO leadership.
UNEF, the centre-left student union, also took part in the demonstrations, underlining the fact that a majority of students have to work during their studies and so are directly affected by attacks on workers’ rights, which undermine their right to study.
The mobilisation brought together 500,000 to 600,000 demonstrators and almost as many strikers. It was a first step. But the refusal of trade union leaders to demand the full withdrawal of the decrees undermined the movement’s political power.
The organisers of the 12 September called for a mobilisation on 21 September. This day of action was slightly smaller. Significantly, the CFDT trade union leadership supported the mobilisation, because if it is to continue to play the role of the “sell-out bureaucrat” [as it did in the fight against the Juppé reforms of 1995], it needs the government to not abolish that role. By turning entirely against all trade union representation in workplaces of less than 50 employees, the government will sack the “sell-out bureaucrat”.
23 September — Mélenchon and France Insoumise
Jean-Luc Mélenchon called for a national demonstration or an “outpouring of the people” on Saturday 23 September.
This demonstration, far from calling for the withdrawal of the decrees, which were to be adopted the day before on 22 September, was instead to be about denouncing the “social coup d'état”, and to confirm Mélenchon's status as the official opposition to Macron for the next five years. That is, Mélenchon is not for a general strike to bring down governments, but for respecting the electoral calendar.
This initiative was unilateral: all leftwing parties and unions were summoned to rally behind this call without any possibility for discussion of methods or slogans.
Mélenchon reports that the demo drew 150,000.
25 September — road hauliers
The FO and CGT federations launched a national action on 25 September which saw dozens of blockades at industrial sites or refineries.
Road hauliers face the threat of losing the bonuses that make up a large part of their income under the current collective agreement (for overtime, long distance work, meals etc.), leading to losses of 1,000 Euros a month. Rage and anger are building to a head in this super-exploited sector.
The government has played the dockers a similar hand, announcing that it would not approve their last sectoral collective agreement with the CGT.
28 September — pensioners
The government plans to increase the CSG (Contribution Sociale Généralisée, a general tax on wages and pensions, paid by workers and pensioners), saying that any pensioner who receives more than 1,200 euros a month is privileged! At the same time, the government plans to scrap the ISF (Tax on Fortunes) in 2018 by exempting capital and luxury goods — luxury cars, yachts, private jets... it comes to eight billion euros’ worth of presents to the rich!
A day of action with calls from all the pensioners’ unions.
All this fed into the meeting of FO’s National Confederal Committee. General Secretary Mailly was in a clear minority, with a vote for a motion to organise a day of cross-sector strikes to demand the withdrawal of the decrees passing overwhelmingly, giving rise to rumours that Mailly will resign…
Finally, all the union federations in the public sector are calling for strike action against the pay freeze, public sector job cuts (120,000 announced over 5 years and the immediate sacking of 150,000 workers on less-permanent contracts in the public sector), the increase of the CSG, the planned re-introduction of one day's stoppage of pay in cases of sickness...
12 October: leaders, don’t go!
The government wants to meet the trade union leaderships for yet another session of meaningless discussions on 12 October. The minimal demand the rank-and-file should raise is this: boycott this latest masquerade because any participation tends to mean abandoning serious opposition.
The parliamentary discussion of whether to definitively authorise the decrees will begin in the week of 20 November. There is no time to waste!