Socialist Worker

Escalating strikes can beat the French Work Law

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2508

SNCF workers hold a strike rally on Monday

SNCF workers hold a strike rally on Monday (Pic: Nouvelle Parti Anticapitaliste)


Workers from all over France marched in Paris on Tuesday. Many of them were also on strike against the Labour-type government’s Work Law.

It was the first nationwide demonstration since the revolt against president Francois Hollande’s attack on workers’ rights began in March.

It came as strikes were causing severe disruption to the Euro 2016 football tournament.

Rail workers stepped up strikes against both the Work Law and an attack on their conditions the week before the tournament.

Axel Persson, a rail worker at Trappes near Paris, told Socialist Worker, “The strike hit all the lines towards the stadium for the opening match.

“The government even threatened to use powers to force people back to work, but they backed down.”

The national stadium was surrounded by overflowing bins as strikes by refuse workers meant several weeks’ rubbish went uncollected.

Blockaded

Paris authorities hired private firms to pick up the litter. But workers and supporters blockaded rubbish tips in Paris and Marseille.

The Euro 2016 trophy arrived in Paris on a special train last Wednesday. But workers protested inside the Gare du Nord train station and stopped it pulling in, forcing a planned public ceremony to be cancelled.

Pilots at the Air France airline struck from Saturday to Tuesday, causing a quarter of flights to be cancelled and costing bosses £5 million a day.

Oil workers had been at the forefront. But last week a number of refineries and the Cim oil terminal in Le Havre went back to work.

Axel said, “They are beginning to stop after being out for a long time, but there are other sectors where it’s just getting going.”

The Work Law is currently being debated in the Senate, the French parliament’s upper house. When it returns to the lower house next month, a backbench rebellion could see Hollande lose his majority.

Axel says, “The strikes have been strong enough to split the government. If the Work Law falls in

parliament, it will be the effect of the strikes.”

Leverage

Hollande insisted the strikes needed to stop before Euro 2016. But disrupting the tournament gives workers extra leverage to put

pressure on his government.

However union leaders didn’t press home the advantage. CGT union federation leader Phillippe Martinez promised that matches wouldn’t be disrupted, and called on the government to negotiate.

The danger is that CGT leaders do not escalate strikes and allow the momentum to be lost.

The government could already have been defeated if the powerful strikes at refineries and elsewhere had been generalised.

More strikes will be needed in the weeks ahead.

Axel said, “The sectors that are on continuous strike won’t be able to hold out alone, and if other sectors don’t join them it will start to become very difficult.

“The demonstration is enormous, but the real question is what happens after.”


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