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French public-sector workers show their strength
LAST WEEK France saw huge mobilisations by workers against redundancies and for higher wages. Public-sector workers turned out in massive numbers against the Raffarin government's 'neo-liberal' (ie capitalist) policies and to protest at the meagre wage deal they had been offered.
Leila Messaoudi, Gauche Revolutionnaire, Rouen.
Postal workers, railway workers, gas and electricity company employees, teachers, nurses, surgeons, and many more public-sector workers took to the streets. The strikes and demonstrations, organised over five days, are the first mobilisations of this magnitude since the movement against pension 'reform' in spring 2003.
On 20 January, 328,000 people took part in demonstrations across France. More than 50% of all teachers went on strike. Across the public sector, average participation in the strikes reached 20%.
The demonstrations' mood was very combative. The participation, larger than the trade unions anticipated, points to a regained self-confidence amongst public-sector workers in their long struggle against Raffarin's government.
Most workers see that they need to link up with private-sector workers. The trade unions are calling for a day of demonstrations on 5 February against Raffarin's attacks on the 35-hour week.
This will be seen as the next stage in the build-up to a more generalised movement in the public and private sector to defend incomes, stop the long list of redundancies and call a halt to neo-liberal policies.
Members of Gauche Revolutionnaire, the CWI's French section, participated in the demonstrations, calling for a one-day general strike of the public and private sector. We got a warm reception distributing our leaflets and selling our paper, L'Egalite. In Marseille, about 100 school students showed support for our demands by wearing our leaflets as a badge and sticking them to their coats.
The 5 February protest will put the question of a one-day general strike against the Raffarin government onto the agenda in France.
In The Socialist 29 January 2005: