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Test of Strength Continuing Between Prefect and Grandpuits Refinery Strikers

Translated Wednesday 27 October 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

The test of strength is continuing between the authorities and the strikers at the Total oil company refinery in Grandpuits.

In the night of October 22-23, the Seine-et-Marne prefecture issued a second bylaw requisitioning workers, immediately after the suspension of a previous bylaw by the courts. On the evening of October 22, the Melun administrative court had ruled in favor of the inter-trade union committee which was protesting an attack on the right to strike.

Called upon to rule under the simplified appeals procedure, the judge ruled that the prefect’s bylaw constituted “a serious and manifestly illegal attack on the right to strike and that the execution of the bylaw, for this reason, had to be suspended.” The appeals judge also ordered the payment of 1,000 euros to the petitioners. “This boosts the troops’ morale. This shows that there are people who a really taking us for idiots,” a Grandpuits shop steward told the France Info radio network.

Events took a dramatic turn a few hours later when, in the middle of the night, the Seine-et-Marne prefect ordered a new requisitioning of workers. Before the strikers gathered around a wood fire, a spokesman for the refinery management explained: “Considering that the right to strike constitutes a constitutional principle, the striking workers at a private company can also be legally requisitioned when the measures are required by the urgency of the situation and are in keeping with the requirements of continuing public service and maintaining law and order.”

On the spot, the decision obviously aroused the strikers’ anger. “This is extremely ridiculous. The prefect should know that his requisition is very likely going to meet with the same fate as the first one,” Charles Foulard, the CGT coordinator for workers at Total, said. Moreover the trade unions immediately promised to file a new court action on Oct. 25. But until then, the requisitioned workers, sick at heart, will have to load the tank trucks with fuel.

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