Millions of French workers strike against Macron

This video says about itself:

9 October 2017

The French president’s labour reforms saw many public servants hit the streets in protest at the end of September. Another demonstration, due to take place on Tuesday (October 10), is expected to be even bigger. Some five and a half million civil servants have been called to strike, with almost 130 events planned in 90 French departments.

Disruptions to both land and air services are forecast.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Millions take to the streets of France for ‘the weakest and the workers’

Tuesday 10th October 2017

MILLIONS of French workers walked out today in the latest bid to force President Emmanuel Macron to ditch his destructive policies which are rolling back the country’s protections for the “weakest and the workers.”

For the first time since 2007, all nine public-sector unions — which represent around 5.4 million workers — called their members out to protest against new labour laws eroding working conditions, as well as plans to slash the number of civil servants by 120,000 over the next five years.

“We are going to remind [Mr Macron] that there’s the bubble he lives in and there’s the real world,” said union federation CGT leader Philippe Martinez.

The Education Ministry claimed that 17 per cent of teachers were on strike, though news reports suggested up to 50 per cent may have walked out.

And several schools in Paris and around the country were shut down by students blocking the entrances in solidarity with the unions.

“They unravel all the social protections supposed to protect the weakest and the workers,” said Sandrine Amoud, a teacher on strike in Paris.

Nurse Beatrice Vieval said her Paris hospital has seen three recent suicides among staff, and she fears that government plans to cut public servant jobs and to freeze wages “will make the situation worse.”

She said she already feels squeezed by increasing cutbacks — “wages are frozen, hospital conditions are deteriorated, staff are depleted by reorganising services.”

Philosophy student Amado Lebaube said the attack on working conditions had already hurt consumers of public services, and could threaten his ability to stay in school.

He expressed thanks for teachers, student housing aid and government scholarships, adding: “I can study today because there are public services in this country.”

And union federation FO general secretary Jean-Claude Mailly called on the president to stop “austerity” policies toward public servants during a protest in the city of Lyon, one of 130 mobilisations across the country.

Police clashed with protesters in the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris, using tear gas and batons. Several people could be seen with injuries.

Flagship carrier Air France says about 25 per cent of domestic flights would be cancelled due to a walkout by air traffic controllers.

Despite Mr Macron’s axe falling on private-sector workers too, the CFDT, largest union federation in the sector with historic ties to the Socialist Party, has been reluctant to join CGT protests against the law.

CFDT deputy secretary-general Veronique Descacq said the unions plan to meet again on October 24 to try to agree a strategy.

The CGT has already called another day of action on October 19.

8 thoughts on “Millions of French workers strike against Macron

  1. Thursday 12th October 2017

    The president’s policies of job cuts and pay freezes are causing unrest among the French working class, says TOM GILL

    WHEN French President Emmanuel Macron secured his sweeping majority of the Elysee Palace and parliament in May and June, it was said that only the unions had a chance of checking his power.

    So this week’s show of unity and strength by public-sector unions — after months of squabbling — will have him worried.

    For the first time in a decade all nine unions representing 5.4 million public workers protested in the streets of France on Tuesday.

    At issue are Macron’s plans to axe 120,000 public-sector jobs, to reduce sick leave compensation and freeze public-sector pay.

    Workers in health, education, local government, air traffic controllers and train drivers are among those who went on strike.
    French unions were initially divided over Macron’s policies, above all his labour reforms that undermine collective bargaining, cap unfair dismissal severance payments and reduce the role of unions, undermining workplace democracy.

    Traditionally the most militant, the CGT strongly opposed the changes from the outset, organising two days of mass protests in September against the attacks on labour rights.

    But it found itself isolated initially, making it easier for Macron to ram through legislation by decree on September 22. Now the base of the two other largest union confederations, the FO and CFDT, are starting to force their leaders to align themselves more closely with the CGT, after they failed to secure any meaningful improvements to the new laws following talks with the government.

    With further protests and strikes called for October 19, unions hope some pressure can still be brought to bear on the government as the labour law decrees are confirmed in parliament and other measures are debated by MPs.

    It won’t be easy, as Macron’s upstart La Republique en Marche political movement has a big majority of seats. And for certain, the battle won’t be won by force of argument, for evidence and facts are not deciding Macron’s policies.

    Unions are at pains to point out the holes in Macron’s claims that his labour reforms are driven by the desire to cut unemployment from its current 9.5 per cent to 7 per cent in five years, boost sluggish growth, and will be welcomed by employers.

    A study by national statistics agency Insee conducted among businesses earlier this year found “economic uncertainty” and “lack of qualified/skilled labour” were the two top reasons for not hiring, with costs and regulations trailing in third and fourth place.

    The biggest determinant of France’s economic health is the austerity drive and behind that is Europe, a matter that Macron can do little about.

    As with most other member states bar Germany, the euro currency is overvalued, making French exports expensive, and the draconian monetary and budgetary strictures have stifled growth and investment.

    Macron has made great play of a new Franco-German relationship; one of his proposals is a eurozone budget of hundreds of billions of euros to be used to underwrite investment projects and raise spending in countries with high unemployment. But this is fanciful.

    There was never much prospect of convincing Germany to back such a plan, and now the Chancellor, weakened and facing the Eurosceptic AfD in parliament, is even more likely to stick to her formula of destructive deficit reduction and pro-market structural reform.

    And how does the structural reforms Macron is championing at home help produce the skilled productive workers French employers are seeking?

    Even the IMF is sceptical about that one, as was confirmed in a study it published in 2015. Instead, as can be seen elsewhere in Europe where flexible labour market polices have been tried over the past decade or more, it simply leads to millions of precarious jobs on low wages.

    So yes, he may cut unemployment, but at what cost? In seven of the 28 EU countries real wages have fallen in the past eight years, while wage growth has slowed in 18 of the members and risen in just three — Poland, Bulgaria and Germany, according to research published earlier this year by union think tank ETUI. Inequality of wealth and income have widened too.

    In France, already pro-market austerity policies pursued by the former Socialist administration have seen the loss of thousands of skilled relatively well-paid jobs in industry and in the public sector some grades have lost 20 per cent of their purchasing power while many are now in practice on lower rates than the minimum wage, according to the FSU trade union.

    But if Macron gets his way what former president Francois Hollande stole from working people will look like a very modest mugging. On top of the attack on the public sector and labour rights, Macron is planning reductions in welfare, including housing benefit.

    Meanwhile, he’s reducing corporate tax and scrapping a levy on wealth. A former Rothschild banker, Macron’s programme was best summed up by the recent headline of liberal newspaper Liberation: “President of the rich?”

    The backlash against a supremely arrogant president began within three months of his election, with his personal ratings falling faster and further than any previous sitting resident of the Elysee Palace.

    New opinion polls confirm opposition is spreading to his policies.

    According to Harris Interactive, 65 per cent indicate they are opposed to his labour reforms and that includes 29 per cent of Macron voters; 71 per cent are unconvinced the reforms will cut unemployment and 63 per cent say it will worsen working conditions. A separate survey by Elable found 54 per cent “do not trust the head of state to fix the country’s social and economic problems” and 27 per cent of those questioned don’t trust him at all.

    This week’s show of union unity in action is good news — and hastens the day when Macron, who has compared himself to the Roman god Jupiter and dismissed opponents as “nothings,” comes crashing down to Earth.


  2. Friday 13th October 2017

    FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron met union and business leaders yesterday for talks on the second phase of his attack on workers’ rights.

    The latest changes include allowing workers who voluntarily resign to claim unemployment benefits — to encourage them to leave secure jobs.

    But a limit on how long the unemployed can claim dole may be introduced.

    CGT union general secretary Philippe Martinez said after the meeting: “It was polite but firm.”

    He warned “It’s not an option for us to reduce the rights of people without jobs.”

    Left-wing activists protested near a human resources conference in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne forest, where Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud was due to speak.

    Ms Penicaud cancelled her speech, citing a “schedule problem.”


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