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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Même votée, la réforme ne passe toujours pas

by Yves Housson

Retirement Reform Has Not Been Accepted, Even After Vote.

Translated Wednesday 3 November 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

On Oct. 28, the day following the voting of the law on retirement, nearly two million workers marched. It was a far cry from being a last-ditch stand. Although the demonstrators were not so numerous as on the preceding days of mobilization, their determination to reject an unjust reform was unbroken.

From one day of mobilization to the next, since early September, the movement was continually “running out of steam.” On Wednesday Oct. 27, the good doctors of the Figaro newspaper were unequivocal: “The conflict is coming to an end.” All things considered, since the Prime Minister said that the social movement “no longer had any sense” following the “definitive” adoption of the law by the French Parliament, how could it be otherwise? But these were so many prophecies, which the workers, led by a trade union front that was as united as ever, belied again yesterday.

Of course, this seventh day of action against the retirement reform did not beat any records – and no one had in any case pretended that it would – but nothing, neither the number of marchers, nor the fighting spirit expressed by the demonstrators, nor the positions put forward by the trade union leaders, supported the thesis that the struggle was dying out. 150,000 people in Marseilles, 45,000 in Le Havre, 120,000 in Toulouse, 32,000 in Lyons – not so many as on the previous days of mobilization, but this was notably due to the school holidays, which led to the absence of teachers and high school students. Yesterday’s participation in the 269 separate marches was, once again, massive, and even on the increase in some towns like Belfort, where the mobilization was reinforced by the metal-workers from the local flagship industry, the big Alstom plant.

269 marches, 2 million demonstrators.

For, after two months of fighting, although the movement is ebbing and changing form in some branches and companies, as at the national railway company, the SNCF, in order to take the consequences on paychecks into account, it is continuing to gather strength, and notably in the private sector. A sign of the “anchoring” in the private sector, the CGT noted, is the fact that at many companies participation in the all-trades day of action was accompanied by the deposition of lists of demands concerning wages, jobs, and working conditions.

With “nearly 2 million demonstrators” counted in 269 separate marches, “the level of mobilization is very high,” was the happy remark made yesterday evening by Eric Aubin, the “Mr. Retirement” of the CGT trade union. It was a demonstration of strength that was all the more remarkable in that it came the day after the “solemn” voting of the law by the deputies, which according to François Fillon was to end the affair. And more often than not, finding any words of resignation or signs of division in the trade union front at the demonstrations was a vain search. On the contrary, there is “a desire to continue” Eric Aubin pointed out. The leaders of the eight trade union confederations were speaking as one yesterday in expressing their refusal to throw in the towel. “The government has won the battle of legality,” but “will not gain the battle of legitimacy,” Alain Olive, the general secretary of the UNSA trade union confederation, said confidently. He is resolved to “maintain the unity of trade union action” and he insisted that “The movement embodies a search for justice and all the questions that have been raised remain unanswered.” “It is not because a law has been voted that it becomes just,” François Chérèque, the leader of the CFDT trade union confederation confirmed. “The great majority of the workers are still against this law, and it is our duty to continue to say so.”

“We’re going to act at every level, because the law is not going to put an end to our demands,” added Bernard Thibault for the CGT trade union confederation. The same language was spoken by the FSU, the largest teachers union, whose general secretary, Bernadette Groison believes that the trade unions have “every right (…) to continue the fight over retirement” in order to “correct the law.” At the CGC trade union confederation, too, its leader, Bernard Van Crayenest, stated that “the page has not been turned,” adding that “regarding the root of the question,” he still feels “as much fighting spirit.”

For all, the target is the November 6 mobilization, whose goal is to get the French head of state not to promulgate the law. An additional sign of unbroken determination – if one were needed – is the fact that all of the trade union leaders dealt a mortal blow to the government’s latest maneuver by rejecting the idea of abandoning the struggle around retirement in favor of negotiations on jobs for youth and for seniors. The CFDT leader denounced this “unacceptable instrumentalization,” although he had called for such negotiations, but for him “the problem of retirement has not been settled.”

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