Friday, November 16, 2007

The Heat is on in France: And, getting Hotter

By Mike Tolochko

Under the right wing government of Nicholas Sarkozy, the unions, student movement and the general population are facing a stiff struggle. In there third day of major strikes the labor and students movements have decided, as of today, to keep their strikes going throughout the weekend. On Tuesday, November 20th, other government workers in the electrical, gas and other public industries have voted to join the strike.

It is reported that the students and faculties have shut down 39 of the 82 public universities. Almost all universities in France are public. In 8 places the police have unsuccessfully attempted to break their strike.

The socialist lead unions, the CFDT, as was widely reported began to crack under the pressure of Sarkozy, but the membership declined to back down.

Similarly, the CGT leadership, similar to what they did a couple of years ago, attempted to move away from the strike, but again, the membership declined. The refusal to back down from the strike was lead by the head of railway workers union, the SNF workers. The CGT has a major Congress in a few months.

Both militant strikers were helped out by ultra-right anti-worker stance of Sarkozy.

Sarkozy actually is invoking the name of Margaret Thatcher in attempting to break the unions.

That the German transportation unions joined in with their French comrades was a great help.

A good idea for trade unionist and activists in the USA would be to contact their local media demanding more coverage of these events in Europe; and to use their internet services to find out what is happening. Keep in mind that Sarkozy has a tight grip on almost all print and TV/radio media in France. This includes the ever dangerous Polls that try to convince striking workers that their efforts are not supported by the general public. Polls in France are even more unreliable than in the USA.

Pensions, employment programs, health benefits and other human need programs that European workers and unions have fought for and are trying to expand are at risk. The general French population knows this.

Stay tuned

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