Socialist Worker

Angry workers take to the streets in France for a national day of action

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2723

Astralab workers

Astralab workers on strike despite threats that it could be illegal


Thousands of workers demonstrated in France last Thursday. They were taking part in a day of national protests called by several trade union federations and student groups.

The turnout was smaller than for similar events before the pandemic.

But there was still plenty of feeling against the government and the bosses.

Delegations of young people demanded that their futures must not be sacrificed in order to bail out multinational companies.

Workers in manufacturing and energy spoke bitterly about the way bosses were showered with billions of euros while unemployment threatened workers.

There were larger turnouts than usual from supermarket workers as Monoprix, Carrefour and other supermarket chains as well as Biocoop workers, who have been striking over pay and conditions.

“We were said to be heroes during the pandemic,” said Agnes, a Carrefour worker. 

“We kept working as checkout workers and shelf-fillers and delivery workers to make sure everyone could buy food and supplies. But now there is no reward, no pay rise. 

Disgrace

“At Auchan stores they are even cutting 1,500 jobs—it’s a disgrace.”

Bridgestone tyres has also announced the closure next year of its site in Bethune, northern France, where 863 people work. There have already been protests and there is talk of an occupation.

France has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and it’s one reason why the demonstrations were relatively small. But this hasn’t deterred everyone.

Teachers Alice and Claire were on the Paris protest, where 10,000 took part.

“The anger at the government is still here, it has even increased with the Covid-19 crisis, so it’s not at all strange that we remain mobilised,” Claire told Le Monde website.

“I feel much more in danger in my class, in an enclosed space with my pupils, with all the vagueness of the measures taken by the government, than in an outdoor demonstration,” added Alice.

The fact that the day of action was called as an isolated event, and not as part of an overall plan of resistance, also limited involvement.

There’s a widespread mood that union leaders must go beyond gestures—and there is plenty of resistance to build on.

Among the strikers on the day were coronavirus test workers at Astralab.

The strikers are demanding a covid bonus of 1,500 euros (£1,370) for all and a pay rise. They want their rate to go up from 1.25 per test to 2. They are also asking for more staff.

There are currently at least 2,000 tests per day whose analysis is delayed due to a lack of staff and sufficient equipment. 

The strike continued at Astralab on Friday, despite government threats to declare it illegal. Together with the Yellow Vest and anti-racist mobilisations, this is the sort of resistance that gives hope.


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