Socialist Worker

Something's in the air

Issue No. 1674

A RASH of strikes swept France last week, hitting national TV and radio stations as well as public transport in the country's three biggest cities. Car workers and postal workers also took action. The strikes come against the background of a continuing political radicalisation in France.

The strikes, though modest in scale, are a sign of a new workers' offensive in the wake of the 35 hour working week law which passed through parliament last month. The Socialist Party led coalition government pledged to enact the hours cut when it swept the previous Tory government out of office two years ago. Pressure from below meant the government had to fulfil its pledge. But it also bowed to pressure from France's bosses and watered the law down massively.

So the hours cut has been linked to a move to greater flexibility through annualised hours schemes. These can mean workers' actual working week changes little, as the 35 hours are averaged over the whole year. Workers are far from happy and have launched a series of strikes over the implementation of the law.

  • Programmes on the France 2 and France 3 national TV stations, as well as several national radio stations, were badly disrupted by strikes last week.

    There have been a rash of other disputes on the question of pay and the working week at the start of this week.

  • A strike by bus, metro and tram workers brought Marseilles to a standstill.

  • In Lyons public transport was paralysed.

  • In the north of France rail workers shut down much of the train network.

  • In Paris last week rubbish piled up at metro stations as a strike by workers who clean the network entered its second week.

  • Postal workers have also been taking action. In Bordeaux postal workers won a demand for better shifts and more jobs by striking, occupying and briefly 'kidnapping' their boss.

  • The prestigious Daimler Chrysler plant, building the new Micro Compact Car at Hambach in eastern France, was paralysed by strikes last week. The mainly young workers at several subcontractors walked out on strike last week demanding higher pay. They blocked the entrance to the whole site and quickly closed down the whole operation. Management quickly sued for peace and workers look to have won wage rises of up to £50 a month.

    The strikes and political protests show that workers are capable of winning much more than the limited change on offer from the government.

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    Article information

    Sat 27 Nov 1999, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1674
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