France Hit By Massive Strike Actions

French CFDT union medical workers demonstrate last week in front of the Ministry of Health

WORKERS at Sanofi, which is France’s largest pharmaceutical company, went on strike on Tuesday following the announcement of 1,000 sackings as part of a three-year cost-cutting plan.

The action came ahead of mass strike action throughout France on three key days this month, in health today, January 21, in national education next Tuesday, January 26 and in energy next Thursday, January 28. 
These are to be followed by ‘a common inter-professional moment of mobilisations and strikes on February 4, 2021.’
The Sanofi job cuts, which will undoubtedly harm the company’s research activity, come despite the fact that the company is currently facing a wave of criticism from the government and elsewhere over the delay in the rollout of its Covid vaccine.
However, the company said on Monday that the redundancies are to happen anyway, in line with what it announced last year, when it claims that staff were told that 1,700 jobs would be cut overall in Europe.
‘There will be about 1,000 redundancies in France over three years, in different parts of the organisation, including research and development,’ said Olivier Bogillot, president of Sanofi in France on Monday.
‘We made the announcements in June and it took time to put all of the strategic orientations into place.’
Sanofi claimed that it said in late 2019 that it would seek 2 billion euros in savings by 2022, notably ceasing its traditional activities in diabetes research as well as cardiovascular programmes.
Bogillot claimed that the sackings will be ‘voluntary’ and that the services targeted have not yet been determined.
The CFDT trade union said that the company plans to cut 750 research and development jobs in Europe, including 400 in France and the rest in Germany.
The CGT trade union said that the mass sackings programme is part of a pattern of spending cuts over 15 years that has resulted in the company ‘losing the race for the vaccine against Covid’.
Sanofi laboratories have been developing two Covid vaccines but will not have anything ready to roll out until late 2021, reportedly due to a ‘laboratory error’.
Unions representing workers called on staff at about 20 sites to strike on Tuesday in opposition to the cuts and their consequences for research and development.
Representatives of the CGT’s national engineering branch have put Sanofi at the top of a list in a widespread rebuke of various companies operating in France which are pursuing redundancy plans in the midst of the Covid pandemic.
‘Sanofi, Renault, Danone, Nokia, General Electric, Total, IBM, Airbus, Akka, Alten, CGG, Renault Trucks… The list of companies taking advantage of the crisis to reduce their engineering, research and management staff is long,’ wrote Sophie Binet and Marie-José Kotlicki, co-general secretaries of the Ugict-CGT trade union representing engineers and management staff on Monday.
‘Barely six months ago, France discovered it was incapable of manufacturing basic, indispensable products: masks, key ingredients for medicine… not to mention that it was totally dependent on China for supply chains,’ Binet and Kotlicki wrote.
‘Having sacrificed our capacities for production and suffered serious social and envirionmental consequences for it, our capacity for innovation is now in the crosshairs,’ they wrote.
The pair argued that most companies on the list could not be said to be facing any particular economic difficulties given their payments to shareholders, including Sanofi, which had been ‘outdistanced in the race for a vaccine’ after having ‘halved its research staff in ten years, while paying 4 to 5 billion euros per year in dividends’.
France’s government said last Friday that Sanofi might manufacture vaccines on behalf of other developers, including Pfizer-BioNTech, while awaiting approval of its own jab.
Employment of white-collar workers in the industrial sector has declined 40 per cent in 2020, an unprecedented drop according to the union representatives.

  • Following last Saturday’s clashes with riot police in Paris over the Macron government’s new so-called security bill which will make it illegal to photograph police officers, the French trade unions have reiterated their call for strikes and demonstrations on February4.

‘February 4, together, let our demands be heard,’ declared the CGT French trade union federation in a press statement issued on Monday. 
‘The CGT, FSU, Solidaires, Unef, UNL, MNL, FIDL organisations met as an inter-union at the end of 2020.
‘Our organisations decided to launch a process of mobilisations and initiatives throughout the month of January and the beginning February for the preservation and development of employment and public services, against precariousness.
‘The year 2020 marked by the pandemic and its health, economic and social consequences 
‘These are exacerbated by disastrous government decisions for the world of work and youth.
‘These initiatives will be based on the professional mobilisations already programmed, like the calls for demonstrations on:
1 Health on January 21
2 National education on January 26
3 Energy on January 28, also committed to the defence and development of the public service. 
‘In this context, and this is not trivial, the government’s draconian attacks are on the increase. Our organisations continue to fight them.
‘The stimulus plan displayed by the government is in no way a plan to break with policies of job losses, pressure on wages and working conditions and weakening of social protection.
‘It plunges a large part of the population and in particular the youth in precariousness and poverty. 
‘The winners are always the same and the companies least affected by the crisis will be those who will benefit the most from the tax cuts. 
‘This observation makes it necessary to control and condition social and ecological public aid. 
‘We need a real recovery plan combining massive public investment and income support for the most vulnerable or precarious. 
‘However, this government is taking the opposite path: 

  • Nothing for low wages, the Minister of Labour announces, almost as a provocation, a revaluation of the minimum wage below 1% for 2021. This will increase the hourly rate from 10.15 to 10.25 Euros
  • Nothing either for the key workers, exposed since the start of the pandemic, all will have to wait for a hypothetical negotiation in their professional sectors at the end of 2021. 
  • Nothing for caregivers who denounce the job-cutting Ségur plan. 
  • Nothing for all the officials whose index point remains frozen. 
  • Nothing for the staff of the national education.

‘47% of young people worry about their jobs and the youth unemployment rate has exceeded 20% 
‘The second confinement plunged them into extreme precariousness. Many of them are not getting enough to eat. 
‘Added to this is the difficulty of following distance learning courses, the fear of failure and strong psychological distress. 
‘With its insufficient, restrictive and inconsistent measures, the government is sacrificing an entire generation! 
‘Not a day goes by without a new announcement of a plan for job cuts, business closures or restructuring and reductions in services.
‘The successive reforms, strongly contested, facilitate layoffs and job cuts in the private as in the public.
‘There again, neither a recovery plan, nor a disruptive plan, but the pursuit of the same liberal objective of destroying the productive apparatus and public services.
‘We affirm, on the contrary, that meeting the needs of the entire population, the future of youth and the success of the ecological transition require the creation of millions of jobs. It also involves sharing and reducing working time.
‘In the health sector for example, while the government procrastinates on the measures to be taken to avoid the congestion of intensive care services, it is 400,000 jobs to be created in hospitals, retirement homes or support for patients. sick and people with loss of autonomy. 
‘The needs are also important throughout the public service. 
‘It is undeniable today, after the shortage of masks last spring, that part of our production and in particular our industry must be relocated. 
‘Being able to produce drugs, medical and protective equipment after the period we are going through can no longer be debated. 
‘This is why the CGT, FSU, Solidaires, UNEF, UNL, MNL, FIDL organisations are offering a process of mobilisation and initiatives from January.
‘Local deployments, parades and general assemblies must be held in the workplaces and in the territories.
‘They will make the second half of January a period of professional mobilisation for employment with in particular 3 key days, in health on 21, national education on 26 and in energy on January 28. 
‘The organisations are calling, in a dynamic of convergences and strengthening of struggles, for a common inter-professional moment of mobilisations and strikes on February 4, 2021.’