Yves Coleman and Nico Dessaux report on the 28 March day of action against the CPE [Contrat Première Embauche, the French government’s plan to cut job security].
As we go to press, the latest day of action in France against the government’s plans to cut job security for young workers on 4 April has seen an even bigger turnout than the huge protests of 28 March, which saw millions of workers and students demonstrate and take industrial action across the country.
Across the country, between 2,500,000 and 3,000,000 workers and students took part in activity on the 28th. As on 18 March, the first section of the demonstration in Paris was mainly taken up by youth and students, with the second section made up of workers. The anarcho-syndicalist trade union, the CNT, formed the rear of the demonstration. Many families were present on the demo, creating a “cross-generational” atmosphere.
Forty-six per cent of primary school teachers were on strike, along with 37% of secondary school teachers. The strike was weaker in the private sector. In the Paris transport and national rail networks (RATP and SNCF), just under 40% of workers on strike. As well as the traditional contingents from unions and left groups, there were also some workplace contingents on the Paris march. Air France had a contingent of around 500, with some Renault and Citroen factories having smaller contingents of around 20.
According to a comrade on the Parisian demo, “there were heavy police controls beforehand, and the police were very obviously mainly harassing young black guys”, who were running along the sides of the demonstration. The police carried out frequent stop-and-search checks, frisking them for hidden weapons and searching their bags. During the demo, police used cameras to spot potential “disturbances” and used both paintball guns and water cannons on the demonstrators. 200 people were arrested in Paris alone.
In Caen and Rouen, young demonstrators were charged by police when they attempted to enter some civic buildings. Police in these areas have also been using helicopters to monitor the students’ movements.
The “united front” of the 12 main trade unions is working around the minimum demand for the withdrawal of the CPE, something Prime Minister de Villepin has made it clear he does not want to do.