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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le 23 mars, mobilisation interprofessionnelle

by Yves Housson

Demonstrations and Strikes to Hit All Economic Sectors on March 23

Translated Tuesday 23 February 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

Five trade union confederations are calling for a day of strikes and demonstrations by private and public sector workers in order to put pressure on the upcoming negotiations.

Meeting on Monday evening [Feb. 15], the CFDT, CGT, FSU, Solidaires and UNSA trade unions announced a common attitude to the “labor summit” to which French president Nicolas Sarkozy had invited them that same morning: “no concrete answer on jobs, wages, purchasing power, working conditions and government policy,” they noted, except for the proclamation of a series of “meetings” (on unemployed workers whose benefits have run out, on jobs in the coming weeks, and on retirement pensions in September).

“Nor is there anything on the feeling of unease in the civil service,” the joint communiqué of the five trade union confederations noted. As to the subject of retirement, while several trade union leaders registered an easing of the reform timetable, the inter-trade union meeting still considers it to be “too tight.”

The trade unions have not yet begun an in-depth dialogue on the retirement issue, but the trade unions signing Monday’s communiqué nonetheless state “their desire that the discussion of retirement take into account all questions, regarding both the private and the public sector, and notably the amount of retirement pensions, employment, financing, difficult jobs, pension law, and the reduction of social inequality.” This is a clear answer to pressure from the government and the French president to limit the discussion to the minimum age to be eligible for retirement and the length of time one must pay into a retirement fund to be eligible for a full pension.

The five trade union confederations consider that “the economic and labor situation requires a joint intervention by public and private sector workers” – thus simultaneously rejecting ham-handed maneuvers to set the trade unions against one another – and have thus decided to go on the offensive by organizing a day of inter-trade action on March 23, with “strikes and demonstrations across the country” so as to “put pressure on” the announced negotiations.

However, while the CGT, the FSU and Solidaires explicitly make the retirement question one of the themes of the mobilization, the CFDT is putting the emphasis on jobs, purchasing power, and life at work, justifying this on account of the absence of “precise objectives” regarding retirement.

Although the FO trade union was present at this inter-trade union meeting, whereas it had been absent from the previous one, it did not sign the joint communiqué. However, according to FO confederation secretary René Vallon, FO might decide at its Feb. 18 executive commission meeting, to participate in the March 23 day of action “on its own positions.” The CGC and the CFTC also withheld their response.

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