ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Des milliers de manifestants contre le Pacte de responsabilité
by humanite.fr poleweb team
Translated Thursday 20 March 2014, by
Several thousand demonstrators, led by Thierry Lepaon and Jean-Claude Mailly, the leaders of the CGT and the FO trade union confederations, marched on March 18 in Paris and in many other French cities to express their opposition to the responsibility pact.
The demonstrators, in answer to a call issued by four trade union confederations – the CGT, FO, the FSU, and Solidaires – which oppose the responsibility pact - marched behind a lead banner reading “Together for wages, jobs, public services and social security.” They chanted “Enough, enough, enough of this policy.”
“We want to tell the MEDEF (the main organization representing French bosses) that the check they got from François Hollande isn’t going to be a blank check; we want results in terms of jobs, wages, public service and social protection. We aren’t a club of nay-sayers; we’re putting forward proposals, and the decisions that have been taken don’t correspond to our expectations,” exclaimed Thierry Lepaon, who was marching shoulder to shoulder with his counterparts, Jean-Claude Mailly of FO, Bernadette Groison of the FSU, and Annick Coupé of Solicaires.
“Wages frozen, jobs cut, enough!”
“When there’s agreement, we’ll sign, but I’m not signing something where there’s nothing written down,” explained Jean-Claude Mailly for his part, with regard to the compensations in the responsibility pact, which has been signed by the CFDT, the CFTC, and the CFE-CGC. “What’ve the workers gained with this pact? Nothing. But Mr. Gattaz has obtained satisfaction,” he said in condemnation, adding that the government is adhering to “a free-trade strategy” of “communication aimed at the European Commission.”
Some protesters, wearing white plastic overalls, formed a human banner reading “frozen wages, job cuts, enough!” On the signs carried by the dissenters, one could read “No to the austerity pact” and “Stop the scrapping of social security.”
Temporary show business workers, who are struggling against the repeal of their unemployment insurance set-up, joined the march. One of their banners read: “It smells of Gattaz, there’s going to be an explosion!”
Among the political parties, the Party of the Left and the New Anti-Capitalist Party mobilized “behind the trade unions” against the responsibility pact which is “a somewhat irresponsible headlong rush” according to Pierre Laurent, the leader of the French Communist Party.
Marseilles marches for “social progress”
As usual, the size of the rally in Marseilles set the tone for the day. Several thousand people (42,000 according to the organizers, 5,900 according to the police) marched for “social progress” and against the responsibility pact. In an ocean of sunshine, the demonstrators began marching in the morning from two separate jump-off points, from the Old Port for the CGT, and from the Réformés neighborhood at the far end of the Canebière high road for FO, and met up outside the prefecture building.
The crowd included workers from ailing companies like Fralib and the Grande Minoterie de la Méditérranée (formerly named Grands Moulins Maurel), dockworkers from the port, retirees, and civil servants (from the different branches of the civil service: local government, tax office workers, hospital workers…). There were also elected officials, like Jean-Marc Coppola, the Left Front candidate in the municipal elections, who was to hold a meeting with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the co-president of the Party of the Left, late in the afternoon.
“Social progress isn’t just words, we want to build other political options,” explained Eric Chenais, the CGT départementale secretary, calling for a continuation of the mobilization after the municipal elections. “It’s out of the question for us to participate in talks on the responsibility pact. We’re going to fight it, as we fight all socially regressive measures, whereas for the bosses, every day is Christmas,” he said.
A lack of personnel, frozen wages, “we’re in a hellish situation, we can’t take it any more,” said a revolter who works at the Timone Hospital. For Yves Castino, the CGT secretary, “we’re fed up with hearing that we haven’t got any more money in France. At present, we can’t care for people any more, the health care professionals are going to become as ill as the patients!”
Many Marseilles schools and childcare centers were affected by strikes on March 18. According to figures provided by town hall, 344 canteens were forced to close (with 31 remaining open), and 34 childcare centers were closed, with four functioning normally and 19 partially.
In Toulouse, they demonstrated “for our children”
Between 3100 people, according to the police, and 12,000, according to the trade unions, marched in Toulouse. “I’ve come to the end of my career, but I’m protesting for our children and grandchildren,” Aline, a France Telecom retiree, declared to the Agence France Presse. “The MEDEF refuses to commit itself to the slightest compensation for the responsibility pact, this is worrying, all the same,” she felt.
Between 1200 and 1500 people demonstrated in Clermont Ferrand, where an FO banner proclaimed “No to the Berger, Gattaz and Hollande pact.” In Grenoble the police put the number of protesters at 1480. Only half of the tram and bus lines were operating. Between 750 and 1500 people marched in Saint-Nazaire, between 1400 and 3000 in Nice, between 1800 and 5000 in Nantes, between 1400 and 2500 in Rennes, and between 2000 and 3500 in Toulon.
There seemed to have been little response to calls to go out on strike. In the National Education service, 5.7% of the teachers in the 26 non-overseas academies went on strike. At Pôle emploi, the jobs agency, 5.2% of the workers struck, according to management.
Social security workers marched. Social security workers were also called upon to strike on March 18 to protest against worsening working conditions. All of the trade union confederations, including the CFDT, the CFTC and the CFE-CGC, called for a work stoppage. But those trade union confederations did not join in the Paris demonstration, which they said had been “hijacked” by the CGT and FO.