French unions call for symbolic public strikes at railways and airports

The French unions called yesterday a day of strike among certain railway workers and the first day of a five-day strike by staff at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris.

The unions have not released a statement on the number of workers participating in the strike at Paris airports. At 11:00 am, the secretary general of the Paris branch of the National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions (UNSA), Laurent Gassine, tweeted that 30% of flights at Orly airport had been delayed by 15 minutes to an hour. The AFP news agency reported that the flights were largely operating normally. Paris airports have said they expect flight delays until Monday due to the strike.

South Terminal of Orly airport (Photo: Wikipedia)

In the railways, the one-day strike launched by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) yesterday impacted regional express TER trains nationwide. It had no impact on the TGV or metro lines. TER services were disrupted in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Pays de la Loire, Brittany, East, New Aquitaine and Occitanie.

Also yesterday, the unions announced that they were canceling their old notices of authorization to strike for the weekend of July 3 and 4 on the national Ouigo rail networks.

Participation in these strikes was low, despite growing opposition from workers to the ongoing employer offensive. The actions announced Thursday were symbolic events that French workers know all too well. Announced without clear demands or any attempt to mobilize wider support in the working class, they are only intended to vent the workers and demoralize them, while the union bureaucracies come to terms with the management.

Airline employees are faced with a major cost reduction plan for Aéroports de Paris (Groupe ADP), which includes Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget airports. Groupe ADP, which employs more than 5,000 people, is negotiating with the unions a Work Contract Development Plan which eliminates numerous employee bonuses. The unions say that would represent a pay cut of up to 20 percent, while the company itself admits it would mean a pay cut of between 4 and 8 percent. Workers refusing to sign the new contract under these terms would be sacked.

A one-day protest action called by unions on June 18 outside the headquarters of the ADP Group involved some 700 people, including operating employees. “Management is draining us psychologically and financially,” said Ramesh Monsard, 44, who worked for 20 years as a parking manager at ADP. The world.

The unions are not opposed to the company’s restructuring plans. Only seven months ago, they signed an agreement with ADP for a “voluntary” departure plan which has led to the loss of 1,250 jobs, or one sixth of the total workforce.

At the time, unions were justifying the action by saying it would reduce the company’s demands for further attacks. ADP management issued a statement saying it would provide an opportunity to work even more closely with the unions. “In order to give a new chance to social dialogue and to avoid forced layoffs (…) the management preferred to propose a new plan” of layoffs, she said.

In the rail sector, the CGT press release announcing yesterday’s symbolic strike did not include any concrete demands, calling for “real negotiations for a quality social status” and “the end of restructuring”. He was not even making a symbolic reference to the imposition of the restructuring linked to President Emmanuel Macron’s 2018 rail reform. While there is huge opposition to the reform among workers, Macron negotiated it closely with the unions.

Under the new law, more than 23,000 workers are no longer hired under the old status of railway workers, resulting in a significant reduction in their wages and working conditions. The reform initiated the complete privatization of the national SNCF rail network, which was nationalized after World War II.

In 2018, SNCF employees led a bitter strike against Macron’s rail reform. The CGT and other unions isolated the strike, refusing to mobilize any broader worker action against privatization and instead maintained a series of intermittent and demoralizing work stoppages for months that were aimed at demoralizing workers. The unions, who had already negotiated the bill with Macron over the months, worked to betray the strike and impose Macron’s reform.

Unions worked with the government throughout the coronavirus pandemic to impose Macron’s ‘herd immunity’ policy, opposing any strike action to shut down non-essential production that would prevent the spread of the virus but would have an impact on corporate profits. The result of these policies across the EU has been the deaths of over 110,000 people in France and over 1.1 million on the continent. The wealth of Europe’s 684 billionaires soared from over $ 1,000 billion to $ 3 trillion during the same period.

The Macron government and the unions are aware that this has only deepened the opposition of the railway workers to the policies of the ruling class. While trillions of euros have been handed over to big banks and corporations in the form of EU stimulus packages, funding for these measures must be extracted through an enhanced offensive on the social rights of the working class.

For a struggle to be organized, however, it must be waged outside the control of pro-business union apparatuses. Railway and public transport workers should form their own action committees, independent of trade unions, to organize a struggle and appeal to workers in France and Europe. These must be oriented towards a new political perspective, based on the struggle for workers’ governments, the transformation of large companies into public services democratically controlled by the working population, and the socialist reorganization of the economy according to social and not of private profit. .

About Jun Quentin

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