Tuesday, October 5, 2010

French Protests Continue Against Attacks on Pensions

Lisbeth Latham

Millions of people joined protests across France on October 2 as part of the ongoing campaign to defeat attacks on France’s pension system. The day which had been called by a Inter-Union Coalition of seven of France’s Union Confederations, was the third national protests against the pension bill, currently before the France’s Senate, since September 7.

With the Senate vote approaching, and the French government determined shift reduce pension rights to increase the burden of economic reform being paid by working people, the size of the protests were an important test for the strength of the movement. As such the numbers mobilised have been hotly contested, just as with each of the previous days of mobilisation. France’s Interior Ministry claimed that the protests were substantially down on previous mobilisations, roughly 883, 000 compared with 997, 000 on September 23. The unions’ claimed the numbers were similar 2.9 million on October 2 compared with 3 million on September 23. While the government attempt to play down the size the protests, Capital is worried, this concern was reflected in the article published on October 4 at The Australian’s website, which raised concerns that the October 2 mobilisations had seen significant numbers of students mobilised and the possibility of a repeat of the large scale student lead mobilisations that defeated the First Employment Contract law in 2006.

Adding to the impact of the October 2 mobilisation was the ongoing strike action by port workers. On September 27, workers at Fos-Lavera port near Marseille, which is the world’s third largest oil port, began wildcat strike action blockading the port and reducing the supply of oil to the 8 refineries supplied by the port. The action at Los-Lavera was aimed at opposing both the attack on pensions and changes at the port. By October 1 the strike had spread to the majority of France’s commercial ports raising the spectre of escalating strike action similar to that which defeated attempts to reduce pension rights in 1995.

On October 4, the day before the debate in the Senate was due to begin, the inter-union coordinating committee issued a statement that identified the October 12 strikes as crucial and called on their organisations to broaden and expand their united mobilisations. The Inter-Union also announced that it would be meeting on October 8 to plan the next course of action.


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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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