There is great empathy from the railway workers towards the students’ struggle. But at the start railway workers didn’t feel they had to join their struggle. People were supportive because they were parents or friends of some of the students involved.
This changed on Monday of last week when the different trade unions – CGT railworkers, Sud railworkers, Force Ouvrière and most recently the CFDT – called for a strike on Tuesday of this week.
Railworkers have always been among the most militant of the French workers. The government and the French national railway company (SNCF) understood that long ago.
One of the first statements issued by the company showed their fear – they said it wouldn’t hire anyone on CPE, that the CPE wouldn’t apply to the SNCF.
The same kind of divide and rule tactic was used in 2003, when the government pushed through their reforms for pensions.
Then again it was said that the pension reforms would not apply to the SNCF. But this time the tactic won’t work. Different trade unions have invited students to address the workplace, and explain their struggle and the implications of the CPE.
On top of that you have to realise that 50 percent of students work as well as study – and some of those are working at the SNCF.
In my workplace, for example, students are selling train tickets. Thus the connection between students and railway workers is becoming more apparent as there aren’t bridges to be built when both are in the same workplace.
There was a sense that the government will not withdraw the CPE under pressure from the students.
After all, it’s the same government which passed the pension reforms through despite sizeable opposition, and which imposed curfews last November during the riots.
Since last week this sense has been reversed – people feel that winning is possible. If we manage to beat the government on the CPE it will open a new space where demonstrations and mobilisations have been clearly proved as winning formulas, which in itself would be an enormous victory.