Monday, May 4, 2009

French Workers March Against Sarkozy on May Day

Lisbeth Latham

Frances’s eight major union federations united to hold national demonstrations on May 1, the third joint demonstration this year. The May Day demonstrations reflected the continued push within the French labour movement for a united campaign to force the Sarkozy government to implement policies that protect the interests of workers, students, pensioners and the poor.

Initial reports suggest that more than 1.2 million people participated in 286 protests across France. While the number of protesters was down on the January and March demonstrations, according to the General Federation of Labour (CGT) the figure was five times larger than participated in 2008, and three times larger than participated in the 2003 protests which were part of the campaign against the Chirac government’s attacks on pensions.

In its statement on the May Day demonstrations the CGT states that the mobilisations were successful in involving a substantial number of new protestors, both from the public and private sector. In addition the call for May Day had helped to expand the involvement of workers in action.

The lower numbers attending protests may reflect the fact that May Day is a public holiday in France. Significantly opinion polls suggest that 70% of French people support the union campaign. Which may have contributed to the Socialist Party encouraged its members to participate in May Day demonstrations, the first time since 2002.

France’s unions will meet again on May 4 to discuss the coordination of the campaign during May and June. France’s unions will participate in the European Trade Union Confederation’s Put People First demonstrations in Madrid, Brussels, Berlin and Prague on May 14-16.


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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