French Workers Fight Wage Cuts, Sackings And Privatisation!

The front of the 500-strong march in Bagneres de Bigorre
The front of the 500-strong march in Bagneres de Bigorre

Bagneres de Bigorre, a small town near Tarbes has been hit by a wave of redundancies and short-time working in the local factories.

Over 500 responded to the main national unions’ call for a day of action for jobs, meeting and marching through the streets to the local government administration HQ in a lively demonstration.

Meanwhile, over 90 per cent of about two million French people who cast ballots in the unofficial referendum last week oppose the government’s plan to privatise national postal system, according to the result released Monday by the vote organisers.

The Socialist Party, along with groups of unions launched the vote, asking citizens ‘the government wants to change the status of La Poste to private, do you agree with the project?’

The number of people casting the vote all over France reached 2,123,717, among which 2,092,016 answered no to the question, according to National Committee Against the Privatisation of the Post, which organised the vote and includes political parties, labour unions and civil society groups.

The Sarkozy government has committed to convert its national postal service, now officially a public body, into a société anonyme (PLC) by the start of next year.

Economy Minister Christine Lagarde claimed the reform is not a privatisation, but ways ‘to strengthen’ the postal system.

Although the government says the state would remain the only shareholder, the unions think that might not continue to be the case.

They also believe the new status could lead to changes in their contracts, staff cuts, changes to distribution and the price of stamps.

Many French people are in fear that the full liberalisation oriented by profit may affect the service quality, so that groups of unions went on strike in September to protest.

The French government has dismissed the results of the unofficial consultation on the future of La Poste.

Government spokesman Luc Chatel said the ballot lacked transparency and has no legal value at all.

The government says the change in La Poste’s status is needed for modernising – it would allow extra sources of funding.

The EU requires it in preparation for the opening up of the European postal market in January 2011.

Chatel claimed: ‘The government does not want to privatise the Post Office – it wants to recapitalise it so that it can play an important role in the European postal market of the future.’

• Moves to sell off the German-owned Continental tyre making plant at Clairoix (Oise) to the Dubai-based company MAG have foundered with MAG withdrawing from negotiations, it was announced on Monday, October 5.

In April Continental announced the end of activity at the plant and redundancy for the 1,120 employees, which led to a lively campaign by the workers to save their jobs. The MAG deal however would only have resulted in work for four hundred.

• Helmeted Police with shields aggressively forced the removal of management from the Freescale plant where they had been detained by angry workers, on strike for over three weeks.

Workers faced with losing their jobs at the closure threatened Toulouse electronic factory which makes components for the motor industry had kept management members inside the meeting room when their proposals for redundancy terms were judged insufficient by union members on Friday evening, October 2.

George Lorente, a CFDT member of the strike committee said: ‘We didn’t lock up the boss, we only wanted them to keep negotiating and not leave the room until a result had been reached.’