French president Nicolas Sarkozy has hit the ground running, hoping to capitalise on the apparent mood for change that saw him elected in May. He will need momentum to push through the changes that will make France more like Thatcherite Britain; that is, to bulldoze the working-class opposition that thwarted his predecessors.
He has already passed legislation to reduce public transport workers’ right to strike, by establishing a minimum service level in rail and road transport, and announced that he wants to worsen railworkers’ pension regime and drastically cut the number of civil servants.
He has also intensified his government’s attacks on immigrants, making it harder for them to bring family to join them in France. Transport unions have called a day of action on 17 October to protest against the attacks on transport workers.
Below we publish a statement issued by the 16 September meeting of signatories to an appeal to defend the right to strike, “The right to strike is not negotiable”. They stress the need for the whole working class to unite against Sarkozy’s attacks. The appeal is available in French at http://droitdegreve.wordpress.com/le-droit-de-greve-nest-pas-negociable/ and in English [see comment below].
Sarkozy and [Prime Minister] Fillon have announced that their offensive against the rights of all workers by means of destroying the so-called special pension regimes starts this autumn and will not wait until 2008.
If Sarkozy wants to do that, it is in order to attack all workers, lower wages, impose the “new work contract” wanted by the Medef [French equivalent of the CBI] instead of the permanent contracts [Contrat à durée indéterminée (CDI)], facilitate redundancies, and in the area of pensions force us all to work more than 40 years to get a full pension…
The workers affected by the so-called special regimes are not privileged: leaving aside the higher level of their contributions, the level of their pension and their entitlement after 37.5 years are all that remains of the common right of all, destroyed by the pernicious legislation of Balladur in 1993, Juppé in 1995 and Fillon in 2003.
An initial anti-strike law, which they want to extend to all workers, has been adopted this summer by the UMP [Sarkozy’s governing party] parliamentary majority, which establishes a state of exception on public rail and road transport. This law has not yet been tested on the ground: in order to break the pensions and the terms and conditions of the railworkers, it is going to be tested.
The only way that Sarkozy can beat the railworkers is if they are isolated. The whole working class, all wage-earners, all young people, are implicated. In 2006 the unanimous rejection of the special first-job contract [Contrat première embauche (CPE)] by all the trade union federations, and their refusal to “negotiate”, played a decisive role in the victorious mobilisation.
The trade union organisations should not take part in any multiple negotiations or dialogues which transport organisations must henceforward undertake in order to implement the “minimum service”, that is, indicate the categories of workers compelled to announce strikes 48 hours in advance, nor in any pseudo-negotiations on the “social dialogue” envisaged by the law... The unions are not mandated by the bosses and the government to carry out their plans, but by the workers to fight for their demands.
To block Sarkozy’s offensive we must organise a resistance of the whole working class against the government and the whole of its policy, and, on the question of pensions, fight for the return to 37.5 years for everyone.
Therefore we call for:
• people to sign the appeal “The right to strike is not negotiable” [see comment below];
• the repeal of the [anti-strike] law;
• united mobilisation in defence of the right to strike, against Sarkozy; and
• local committees to prepare a united fight.