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New action dates called for French pension war

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The fight isn’t over, but the unions need to call for coordinated resistance, says Charlie Kimber
Issue 2691
Workers in France are keeping up the pressure and taking to the streets (Pic: O Phil Des Contrastes/Flickr)

French bosses and the government of president Emmanuel Macron are stepping up attempts to break strikers’ resistance to their pension attacks.

They hope to fend off the great revolt that has seen millions on strike repeatedly and on the streets during the last ten weeks.

A group of strikers at the incinerators and waste disposal centres in the Paris region and Marseille have been “requisitioned”—ordered to return to work or face six months imprisonment and a big fine.

Their action had seen rubbish piling up in the streets.

A handful of workers have not returned but, lacking sufficient backing from the union leaders, most felt they had to give in.

One union rep said, “The life expectancy of a garbage collector is seven years lower than the national average. If the pension changes go through we will have no retirement, just work in horrible conditions and then die.”

Employers are also moving against individual militants in the RATP Paris public transport system, on the railways and in universities. It’s urgent that the strikes are raised to new levels in response.

There are some good signs. Nuclear electricity generating ­workers are continuing their actions that lead to power cuts.


The government has tried to create an outcry against the power cuts. But its MPs last week voted against a proposed law to prevent electricity cutoffs for ordinary people.

Gilles Reynaud, president of the association of nuclear subcontractors, said, “Around 80 percent of nuclear activities are subcontracted.

“As the government pushes for low-cost nuclear power, we serve as guinea pigs. But we are neither boss flesh, nor radiation flesh. We are going to fight.”

Students and youth groups ­organised a day of resistance against the government’s attacks on education and workers’ rights on Tuesday this week.

Thirteen hospital ­workers’ organisations have ­organised a day of strikes and demonstrations on Friday this week. They want “real negotiations” over the crisis of ­funding and staffing in hospitals and social care establishments.

RATP workers and some sections of rail workers have called for a “Black Monday” on 17 February.

The CGT trade union federation called a day of action for Thursday this week. It said this will be part of preparing for a national day of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday 20 February.

This has been backed by eight union federations and student organisations.

All of these initiatives are hugely positive. They show the fight is not finished.

“The fight is over pensions but it has become about a lot more for many of us,” hospital striker Annette told Socialist Worker.

“We have learnt a lot over the last few months about how we have to struggle against the whole system.”

The danger is that the days of mobilisation become symbolic rather than being a genuine ­strategy to force the government into ­complete retreat.

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