Workers in Britain have organised to stop a scabbing attempt by bosses during the French rail strikes. It’s an excellent show of solidarity with a crucial battle—and the best sort of European unity.
Rail workers across France took the first of 36 planned national strikes on Tuesday. As they began, Eurostar management tried to move engineering and maintenance workers at the Leyton depot in east London to the Le Landy depot near Paris.
Eurostar is 55 percent owned by French rail operator SNCF.
The British workforce contains specialist teams that can be deployed when the weather conditions are particularly wintery.
Workers rostered onto these teams were asked to go to France—with an initial notification making clear they would cover for strike-hit services.
The union immediately organised to make workers aware that this would be strikebreaking. And the French CGT union also angrily raised the issue with management at the European Works Council and began legal proceedings.
The deployment of workers to cover for strikers in this way is illegal in France.
The RMT union put out a statement which was distributed round the Leyton depot. Union reps also circulated the programme of strikes in France so that workers could be aware of potential scabbing operations.
The union now plans to put out CGT propaganda in Leyton. It has vowed to join French pickets with RMT flags and seek to turn back anyone who does try to scab.
Union members are also producing badges for workers to wear around the depot showing solidarity with the French strikes.
Rail workers in France are striking to defend their contracts and oppose privatisation. But their action is part of a wider revolt and a wider fight – to break the neoliberal offensive from French president Emmanuel Macron.
The rail workers launch the next stage of their action on Sunday and Monday. The government met union reps on Thursday but with no result. CGT rail workers’ secretary Laurent Brun said, “Frankly we’re not pleased that we’ve wasted our time here.”
Macron is feeling the pressure.
When he visited a hospital ward in Rouen on Thursday, he had to enter via the back door.
Outside the front entrance was a crowd of protesters in the orange vests of the CGT. Also wanting to confront the president were medical staff worrying about a planned overhaul of public hospitals.
Students also came to demonstrate.
As Macron ran away from them, protesters chanted, "Macron, chicken, we’re waiting for you."