Around 1,000 undocumented French workers struck around Paris on Tuesday, including some of those building the Olympic Games sites. They are demanding workplace rights, full citizenship status and the removal of a new anti-migrant law pushed by interior minister Gerald Darmanin.
It’s the biggest walkout specifically by undocumented immigrants since 2009. Strikers set up picket lines at 35 sites.
They are protesting at what they called the state’s and employers’ “double game”. They rely on these workers for their building projects and their profits. But they refuse to treat them as fully human beings and also use them as scapegoats for all the problems in society.
Bertrand, one of the strikers, told Socialist Worker, “We’re used but we do not have our rights. We have had enough, Why must we always be second class, why does our right to stay depend on the boss? It is very good to support each other, and all workers should take up this issue.”
He said the unions were “half and half” about raising political issues, but that the Darmanin law could not be removed from the issue of rights at work.
On the Chapelle site, run by firms including Vinci, Bouygues and Eiffage, the strike quickly had bosses rattled and they began to negotiate.
In a statement, the workers and anti-racist groups backing the walkout said, “Today, immigrants are stopping the Olympics and Greater Paris. We don’t have the right papers but we have rights, and first and foremost the rights of workers to strike and unionise.
“Construction workers, mostly immigrants and often ‘undocumented’, denounce all their bosses—and there are many of them!”
Strikers denounced the outsourcing system which “allows the big companies giving orders on construction sites to wash their hands while happily taking advantage of our work. We are split up, employed by temporary agencies, subcontractors, subsidiaries, so many heads of the Hydra which allows the bosses to exploit us.”
Workers targeted the big firms they said were the main culprits such as —“Vinci, Bouygues, Eiffage” and behind them “the International Olympic Committee, the city of Paris authorities, the region and the French State. We are striking against them all because it is time to pay.”
Strikers say that the Darmanin law, which goes before the Senate on 6 November, is “part of a line of laws increasingly restricting access to residence permits. France is setting a trap for us. It offers us a ‘work paper’ which is in reality at the service of the bosses so that they can legally exploit us.
“It’s a step backwards that tramples on the rights won by our elders since the 1970s.”
A statement from workers in a section of the CGT union federation said, “For the vast majority of us, we work under the status of temporary worker. We refuse to continue to be overexploited.
“Because we are undocumented workers. we experience multiple discrimination. Our working conditions are systematically degraded and the most precarious contracts are imposed on us.
“We are workers in France but we are excluded from collective agreements and social rights. We are an integral part of the working class of this country. We create wealth and development like our colleagues.
In Île-de-France, the region around Paris, the CGT says that “immigrant workers with or without papers represent 40 to 62 percent of workers in the home help, construction and hotel sectors, catering, cleaning, security and agrifood.
“We demand the automatic regularisation of all workers.”
Bertrand said, “No rights, no Olympic Games, that is what the government should understand.”
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