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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une journée de lutte qui va faire date

by Paule Masson

A Day of Struggle That Will Go Down in History

Translated Friday 10 October 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

October 7. The world mobilization for decent work brought out 100,000 demonstrators in France. The workers don’t intend to foot the bill for the economic crisis.

“Since the financial crisis began, it has been the trade unions that have been the first to organize and prove that it is possible to respond in a coordinated way and on a world-wide basis,” said Bernard Thibault, the general secretary of the CGT trade union, on Oct. 7 in Paris. Across France, nearly 100,000 demonstrators participated in some 90 protest marches, an “encouraging, positive success,” according to Thibault, who added that the protests allowed the workers to say “that it’s not up to them to pay for the toxic assets of big finance.” Following the Paris demonstration, which attracted 13,000 protesters, mainly CGT members, Paris was also a center for the World Day for Decent Work. Three hundred trade unionists came specially from 14 European countries, in addition to Guy Ryder, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and John Marks, the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). All participated in a rally at the Trocadéro in Paris.

Fear of having to foot the bill.

One slogan dominated the Paris march, and was vigorously chanted by the PSA Aulnay auto workers: “To get out of the crisis, it’s not the banks that need to be helped, it’s wages that have to be raised.” [1] The fear of having to foot the bill was expressed on all sides, sometimes in order to say that we have to discuss the other form of globalization that is possible – “investing in employment, wages, and public services,” as Gérard Aschieri, the general secretary of the FSU (the biggest teachers union) put it, sometimes fatalistically. Christophe is a government worker in Stains, a suburb located 7 miles north of Paris, but he defines himself first and foremost as a worker. His salary, 1380 euros a month, is the household’s only income. As a result, the unpaid bills have inevitably been piling up. He doesn’t understand why “banks that are up to their necks in debt are getting billions,” whereas he is “close to excessive debt” and the authorities are not coming to his assistance. But, he sighs, “that’s the way it always is for us workers.” Next to him, Fouzia argues: “That’s the way it is, but that’s not the way it should be!”

“Even as the crisis increases the number of social tragedies tenfold, it weighs down on people,” explained Annick Coupé, the spokeswoman for the Solidaires trade union, who hopes that the mobilization has only just begun, because everyone is certain that the economic crisis will mean family dramas. “There’s going to be an economic crisis with dramatic social consequences for some people,” warned François Chérèque, the general secretary of the CFDT trade union. “The trade unions have to be present to back up the workers,” he insisted. They’ve gotten ready. They had even foreseen that “the madness of capitalism would end in a catastrophe,” fulminated Alain Olive, the general secretary of the UNSA trade union. And decent work? “It will never again be on the agenda,” blurted out Martine who, after forty years of honest and loyal service, has just been laid off. “They tell us that times are going to be hard, but we don’t want to foot the bill with our taxes,” she added. So who should pay? Now there’s a subject that arouses a debate. “Rather than squandering the taxpayers’ money to feed speculation, we have to invest in housing, health care, and public services,” is the straightforward recommendation made by Daniel, a postal worker in Val d’Oise département north of Paris.

[1The chanted slogan rhymes in French.

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