FRENCH President Macron’s dictatorial new health law and its passage through parliament has angered a vast swathe of workers, youth and the middle class.
On July 22, a forum was signed by dozens of leaders of France’s trade unions, associations and political parties, health, elected officials and personalities, from very diverse backgrounds.
On July 25, an agreement was reached in parliament for a health law leading to unprecedented social regressions: the possibility of discriminating in hiring, of suspending the salary or of dismissing employees, on fixed-term or precarious contracts, because ‘they are not vaccinated’; refusal of patients in hospitals for the same reason; more broadly, the establishment of generalised control and surveillance over the population.
The signatories say: ‘We must fight the pandemic in a fair and democratic way.
‘Further measures are needed for this. Faced with the anger expressed in the street and while calling for a broad and massive vaccination, a large arc of progressive forces is launching a petition to demand a completely different policy to fight the pandemic.
‘A policy based on prevention and equal access to vaccination, much greater resources for public health, the reduction of inequalities and international solidarity.’
The CGT union federation warned: ‘The health pass will mark the lives of millions of French people, since in a very short time, and even more so when the PCR test will no longer be free, all social and professional life will be constrained by the fact of being vaccinated.
‘However, this decision was taken in an authoritarian, undemocratic manner, in a framework of obscure deliberations, that of a single man: the President of the Republic who will have assembled only the Defence Council.
‘It ignores any real discussion in parliament which is, once again, considered a registration chamber. Democracy cannot be sacrificed, and it is for us more than ever the key to getting out of this crisis.
‘However, less than a month ago, Emmanuel Macron, the Minister of Health, the deputies of the majority, like the president of the law committee who had even tabled an amendment to freeze it.
‘The impossibility of having a public obligation in the law, all said they were opposed to the generalisation of the health pass in the name of individual and freedoms as well as to a vaccination.
‘While everything indicates that we have at least months to live with the virus, we cannot enter the society of the generalised control that the government wants to impose on the population in this way.
‘A large and massive vaccination is necessary to fight this pandemic, starting with the coverage of the most vulnerable.
‘We stand out from all those who make their frontal opposition to the vaccine a sectarian and conspiratorial outlet and we firmly denounce any assimilation of the vaccine strategy to the Shoah or to apartheid.’
An earlier CGT statement said: ‘The correlation between vaccination and income suggests that, in the current state, the health pass is antisocial. Thousands of workers find themselves constrained and threatened with serious sanctions.
‘Since the start of the pandemic, the financial and human resources demanded by unions and healthcare associations, to put public hospitals back on their feet and provide proper treatment, have not been granted.
‘The same is true for nursing homes. Worse, in some places we even see that the breakage of the public hospital continues (closure of beds, job cuts …).
‘And during this time, France still opposes, with the European Union, the lifting of patents within the World Trade Organisation, whereas it is the only way so that, in poor and emerging countries , vaccines can be mass-produced and distributed. It is at the same time a question of international solidarity, public health and efficiency. Because until the pandemic is resolved on a global scale, it will not be anywhere.
‘Finally, while these decisions shock and divide the population, serious attacks on social rights are announced. Authoritarianism and social disruption go hand in hand. The regressive reform of unemployment insurance would be ratified from October 1, sharply reducing the durations and amounts of unemployment benefits.
‘And Emmanuel Macron has confirmed his desire to postpone the legal retirement age and the end of all special schemes.
‘While the cumulative wealth of the 500 largest fortunes in France increased by 30% in 2020, the government is not going back on all the largesse it has granted them since the start of the five-year term. It wants to make the unemployed and the unemployed pay for the crisis.
‘Conversely, we ask that a contribution be made, much more than today, multinationals and the very rich, for the benefit of national solidarity.
‘We demand an ambitious social policy, including quality public services and greater social rights.
‘For this reason, in the name of long-term effectiveness against the epidemic and to preserve our freedoms, we oppose the new law proposed to the assembly, as well as the anti-social measures which aim to make pay the bill of the social crisis in the world of work.
‘To this end, we aspire to mobilisations in the weeks and months to come.’
- The CGT has condemned an attack on the Cuban mission in Paris: ‘On this July 26th, the Cuban people celebrated the national holiday which commemorates the Revolution of 1962.
At the same time, in Paris, a Molotov cocktail attack was perpetrated against the walls of the Cuban diplomatic mission.
An attack which takes place in a context where reactionary international forces are stepping up belligerent exits against the island.
The country is suffering from the consequences of a blockade decided and decreed by the American government in 1962, the longest embargo still in force in the world.
This is undoubtedly the root cause of the daily difficulties encountered by millions of Cubans. This blockade limits access to goods and services, raw materials and various sources of international financing.
We want to give our full support to the workers of this country and to the Cuban people as a whole.
We will continue, relentlessly, to call for the lifting of the embargo and the application of the decision of the United Nations, which, by a large majority, voted for the end of this odious and unjustified blockade.
- The Force Ouvriere (FO) union federation is preparing a second national strike at retail distributor Auchan on September 15.
The lack of responses from management to the mobilisation launched by FO in mid-June to obtain a ‘decent salary scale’ and the improvement of working conditions is fuelling anger.
A union statement said: ‘The return to school in September will be offensive at Auchan. The FO activists of the northern distributor voted for a new call for a national strike on September 15 in its 119 hypermarkets and 243 supermarkets in France.
‘Unless new constraints imposed by the evolution of the health situation, they are determined to voice the dissatisfaction of the 37,000 employees who work there (out of 58,800 employees within Auchan Retail France at the end of 2020) and who demand to be better paid, better recognised.
Following the mobilisation of June 18th, launched by FO with the support of the FGTA-FO, to obtain a ‘decent salary scale’ and improved working conditions, ended with an increase of 0.8 % in real individual wages, considered disappointing by all.
‘While the Auchan group has the means: it achieved a net profit of 678 million euros in 2020,’ recalls Arnaud Deekmer, FO central union delegate for the Auchan Exploitation UES (bringing together hypermarkets and supermarkets).
In this context, Auchan Retail France’s refusal to grant a Covid 2021 bonus has ignited the powder keg, perceived as ‘an unbearable lack of recognition for the daily commitment of second-line employees’.