Socialist Worker

French workers escalate resistance to Work Law with mass strikes

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2504

Strikers joined protests across France

Strikers joined protests across France (Pic: PA)


Road blocks and picket lines went up around ports, oil refineries, industrial estates and distribution centres across France on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Workers stepped up their revolt against the Labour-type Socialist Party president Francois Hollande’s proposed Work Law—and the state stepped up its repression.

This is the first week of the campaign against the law to see two national days of action.

Unions escalated action against the law with longer strikes and more workers involved.

First out were haulage workers. The new law would slash the overtime pay that makes up a big chunk of their wages.

Next were rail workers. They are also fighting plans that would drive down their conditions to soften the service up for privatisation.

Workers at the Total oil refinery in Donges in western France pledged, “Not a drop of petrol will leave and not a service station will be supplied.”

Denis Godard, a revolutionary socialist in Paris, told Socialist Worker, “The next few days could be decisive. The Work Law still has a few weeks to go through parliament so there’s time to beat it, but everything depends on whether this move towards bigger strikes takes off.”

Activists from the “Nuit Debout” movement of city square assemblies—meaning “night on our feet”—joined workers’ action.

Nuit de Bout gathering in Paris last Sunday

Nuit Debout gathering in Paris last Sunday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Vote

After two months of resistance, prime minister Manuel Valls faced losing the vote in parliament last week. So he suspended debate on the Work Law.

MPs could only oppose it by voting for a motion of no confidence and toppling the government.

Over 350,000 people signed a petition for MPs in Hollande’s Socialist Party (PS) to do this.

On an emergency protest outside France’s parliament, Vanina Guidicelli told Socialist Worker, “It’s a huge political crisis and it’s a product of the mass movement.

“The protests pushed the government to offer concessions. That led the right wing opposition, which had been supportive of the Work Law, to turn against it. They also pushed a section of the left wing MPs to break with the government.” Enough MPs opposed Valls to bring him down.

But PS rebels and Tories refused to vote together. Last weekend saw protests banned and draconian “preventative” banning orders imposed on activists accused of no crime.

Cops were set to hold their own provocative demonstration on Wednesday in the Place de Republique square that is Nuit Debout’s central base.

It is backed by far right groups—and some union leaders.

An international day of action in support of Nuit Debout last Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of the “Indignados” movement that occupied city squares in the Spanish state. Denis said, “The movement is shot through with debates, sometimes messy ones.

“They are about what to do about the police or the union leaders, about the strike movements and their importance.

“Nuit Debout activists have gone to support strikers. Workers in other sectors, such as Air France, are deciding whether to join the continuous strikes.

“If this takes off we can win.”


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