FRANCE has been shaken for the past six months by an eruption of anger by the education trade unions and by student and school youth against the massive attacks that have been launched on education and teachers’ jobs and pensions.
The reaction of the new French president Sarkozy has been to introduce new anti-union laws before the French Assembly that will cripple the right to strike of the trade unions.
Gerard Aschieri, the leader of the main union for primary and nursery teachers, the FSU, has said that the government’s plans for new anti-union laws, to attack the right to strike, meant that it had crossed a ‘red line’, and that there was now no possibility of compromise as far as the struggle of the workers with the Sarkozy administration is concerned.
The draft bill makes it mandatory for a trade union to inform the state before it makes any public declaration that it has decided to take strike action. The state then has three days to organise compulsory negotiations with the union.
A decree from the State Council will determine exactly how the negotiations will be organised and the procedure to be followed. These negotiations can last up to eight days from the union’s notification to the state; only after this can the union give its public warning of industrial action.
In addition, all those intending to go on strike will have to give individual notice to the authorities no later than forty-eight hours before the action is to take place. If more than 10% of the staff of a school is going on strike, the local administration will have to organise people to supervise the children affected by the action for its duration, a clear attempt to break the strike.
The FSU and all the teaching trade unions are to give a joint response to the government. It can only be a massive NON.
Meanwhile, the huge increases in the price of fuel are rapidly bringing other sections of workers into the struggle in the French ports and throughout Europe.
On Monday the French fishermen after tense talks in France’s biggest fishing port, Boulogne Sur Mer, voted to reject an aid package from Paris and to extend their strike and oil blockade in a dozen key ports by another 48 hours.
The Spanish fishing fleets joined the action, with Italian, Greek and Maltese fishermen due to join the action tomorrow.
The striking French fishing fleet has called for a Europe-wide protest, while a ‘Mediterranean vigilance committee’ organising fishermen from France, Italy, Portugal and Spain called for an indefinite strike from today.
‘Our demands are still the same, a standardised fuel price across Europe and a responsible management of (EU) quotas,’ said Thierry Lepretre, head of the fishing committee in Boulogne, where groups of fishermen strung cables across the port entrance to stop colleagues heading out to sea.
French fishermen are also blockading oil depots and refineries on the country’s Atlantic, Mediterranean and Channel coasts.
The fishermen escalated their protests last week, disrupting cross-Channel traffic, blocking fuel depots and ransacking fish stands at supermarkets and handing out free fish and also filling up customers with free fuel.
They are now being joined by the British road hauliers who are being ruined by the huge hike in petrol and diesel prices.
This movement of the road hauliers is set to explode all over the EU.
As it develops it will see oil refinery workers and the immensely powerful petrol tanker drivers taking solidarity action.
In Britain this movement is set to be joined by the mass strikes of NHS and other public sector workers against the government’s wage cutting policies.
Capitalism is in a deep crisis and the working class is now in revolt, refusing to be the class that is ruined by the crisis so that the billionaire capitalists can remain at the helm.
Trade unionists must demand action from their trade unions. There must be a general strike to bring the Brown government down to go forward to socialism and a workers government.
This is an action that will give a lead throughout Europe and the world.