Socialist Worker

Strikes defy French cops as union leaders seek shoddy deals

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2690

Workers in France protesting on Monday of this week

Workers in France protesting on Monday of this week (Pic: O Phil Des Contrastes/Flickr)


Another day of national strikes and demonstrations was set for Thursday this week in France.

Anyone who saw footage from last week of striking firefighters beating the CRS riot police will have cheered their defiance.

Around 10,000 firefighters had come to Paris protesting over pensions and other issues.

They paraded in emergency gear, disobeying orders not to wear protective clothing on demonstrations.

Their union reps then reported that, having met with the government, they had been offered nothing.

“It was disgusting to hear this,” firefighter Thomas told Socialist Worker.

“We decided we were going to block traffic on the Paris ring-road in protest. Of course the police tried to push us back.”

Cops fired stun grenades, deployed water cannon and tear gas, and used truck-mounted barriers. They shot a firefighter in the head at close range with a rubber bullet.

Barrier

Firefighters then broke open the truck-mounted barrier and continued the battle for hours.

The unions have a strategy of calling one-day mobilisations to coincide with significant dates in the parliamentary scrutiny of the pension changes.

But with indefinite strikes ended nearly everywhere, the government is stepping up repression.

Around 40 strikers at waste incineration plants near Paris who been part of a strike since 23 January are in the process of being “requisitioned”. This would instruct strikers to return to work under threat of prosecution.

However, there are signs of fresh waves of militancy.

A big movement of school students and teachers is resisting the new E3C testing regime. Blockades, occupations and walkouts have forced the cancellation of tests in dozens of schools.

The militancy at the base of the unions is not in doubt. But union leaders are moving towards seeking deals that fall far short of the withdrawal of president Emmanuel Macron’s attacks.

The CGT union has agreed to extended talks with government representatives around pension financing—consultation that the CGT has previously denounced.


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