Socialist Worker

Millions of French workers strike and march

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2220

At Le Havre dozens of workers, students and young people blocked the rail tracks after a demo of 40,000. They were met by the CRS riot police. This has left a bitter legacy among workers  (Pic: Pascal Cole/phototheque.org)

At Le Havre dozens of workers, students and young people blocked the rail tracks after a demo of 40,000. They were met by the CRS riot police. This has left a bitter legacy among workers (Pic: Pascal Cole/phototheque.org)


French workers have shown their determination to block the attacks on their pensions by the right wing government of Nicolas Sarkozy. Millions of workers took part in a day of strikes and protests on Thursday.

Sarkozy has announced a rise in the minimum retirement age to 62. And to get a full state pension many workers will have to stay in employment until they are 67.

Workers’ contributions are also rising.

The number of strikers and the turnout for the demonstrations during Thursday's national day of action was at least as high if not higher than the last day of action on 7 September.

Unions estimated that 300,000 marched in Paris, 220,000 in Marseille, 120,000 in both Toulouse and Bordeaux and 36,000 in Lyon.

“The mobilisation is in the same region as 7 September,” said Bernard Thibault, secretary general of the CGT federation. The CGT said that the biggest 80 demonstrations were overall 10 percent bigger than last time.

He warned the government to “move from its intransigent position or face a new phase of conflict.'

Thursday’s mobilisation was magnificent. But it will take the “new phase of conflict” to win.

Sarkozy knows his future is on the line. Mired in scandal, under attack for his racist assault on immigrants and the Roma, he could be finished if he backs down over pensions.

So it will take a lot to beat him. But that’s not impossible. The key question being debated now is to extend the strikes beyond one day into a movement that squeezes the bosses and the government much harder.

The Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste says, “We must not lose. And we can win. But that means continuing the action after 23 September.”

Significant sections of workers are backing a longer general strike or groups of workers coming out one after another.

The chemical workers section of the CGT says, “faced with the planned abolition of pensions, we have no choice but to tighten the movement to improve the balance of forces, including new strikes.

“The issue of renewable strikes arises more and more.”

The CGT finance section says, 'We should raise the level of strike action by renewable strikes and by blocking the country to force the government to open negotiations.'

At the important Renault Cleon factory, the head of the CGT says workers “must decide their next move on 24 September. The next step must be within two to three weeks. Strikes must leapfrog from one to another if we’re to do well.”

Workers at five Total refineries continued their strike for a further 24 hours on Friday in order to squeeze supplies and step up the pressure on the bosses. This is the sort of initiative needed.

Union leaders have now announced a demonstration on Saturday 2 October and another day of strikes and demonstrations on Tuesday 12 October during the debate in the upper house (the Senate) on the pensions law.

For latest union federations' communication (In French) go to http://www.cgt.fr/spip.php?article37768


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News
Thu 23 Sep 2010, 16:02 BST
Issue No. 2220
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