Socialist Worker

Revolt dilutes the French Work Law

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2511

The protest against the work law

The protest against the work law (Pic: Force Ouvrière)

The French government was forcing its Work Law through parliament as Socialist Worker went to press.

The bill attacking workers’ rights returned to the lower house of parliament on ­Tuesday. Prime minister Manuel Valls banned MPs from debating and voting on it.

As with its first ­reading, he was forced to use a notorious article of the French constitution to suspend ­parliamentary debate.

The mass opposition had split the Labour-type Socialist Party (PS) government’s majority with backbenchers refusing to vote for the law.


At the same time unions launched their twelfth national day of strikes and protests against the bill.

Thousands of workers struck and marched in cities across France. For the third consecutive time the protest in Paris took place surrounded by police. Marchers had to go through systematic searches on their way to assemble.

One of the protesters

One of the protesters (Pic: Force Ouvrière)

The bill could be overturned by a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the government set for Thursday of this week. Both the Tory opposition and the ­Communist-led left were expected to attempt this. But success would depend on the PS rebel MPs. Most were expected to back down under threat of expulsion from the party and a fear that the right could gain from the ­government’s fall.

Resorting to such drastic measures shows how much the government’s ­authority has been damaged by the resistance to its attack.

At every point it has had to water down the Work Law to pacify sections of the ­resistance.


But the central measure, allowing businesses to undercut national ­agreements on working hours, is among those that survived.

If it passes, it represents a severe setback for the French workers’ movement, whose struggles have won gains enshrined in national ­bargaining.

CGT union leader ­Phillippe Martinez pointed out that ­previous laws have been defeated even after parliament’s decision. Union leaders were set to meet on Wednesday to discuss further action.

However their sights are set on large scale action only after the summer holiday season. It could be difficult to rebuild momentum in September.

But the revolt against the Work Law has radicalised thousands of working class people beyond the limits set by the union leaders and ­parliamentary left.

The Nuit Debout (Night On Our Feet) movement of assemblies in city squares “against the Work Law and its world” called a protest outside parliament on ­Wednesday night.

As a nightmarish 2017 presidential election dominated by the fascist Front National approaches, that revolt needs to be built on.

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Tue 5 Jul 2016, 17:04 BST
Issue No. 2511
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