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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La direction de la CGT cherche une issue à la crise

by Clotilde Mathieu

CGT Leadership Seeks Crisis Exit

Translated Saturday 17 January 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

The executive committee is meeting on Jan 6 and 7. Former general secretary Louis Viannet thinks Thierry Lepaon should “hand in his resignation to the national confederation committee.”

On the eve of the executive committee (CE) meeting which was to try, on Jan 6 and 7, to resolve the leadership crisis that began in November, Louis Viannet, a former general secretary of the CGT trade union confederation (from 1992 to 1999) expressed his opinion. In an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, he said that “the crisis that’s currently shaking the CGT to its foundations is unprecedented in terms of its extent and in terms of the principles and the values that it’s mangling.”

Louis Viannet brushed aside the argument of those who “are trying to hide behind ‘the leaks’ and the big media campaign to justify their seeking to maintain the status quo.” “The leaks did indeed exist, as did the media pressure. But, had there been no wrongdoing, there wouldn’t be any leaks or media campaign today,” he observed.

For the former top leader of the trade union, this crisis “sows doubt as to the sincerity with which the CGT defends its fundamental values, tooth and nail.” “It’s up to the CCN (the national confederation committee, the “parliament” of the CGT – editor’s note) to fulfill its responsibilities and to make the decisions it thinks best, or least bad, as to the CGT’s future, bearing continually in mind the organization’s unity and the rallying of all of its forces (…),” he pointed out.

According to Louis Viannet, “the general secretary would come out bigger (…) by publicly announcing, even before the meeting of the national confederation committee, his decision to submit his resignation to the CCN. It’s the only way for him to participate positively in writing the pages to come in the history of the CGT.”

The former leader thinks that “by proclaiming his desire to remain, whatever the cost, in his position, Thierry Lepaon tends to confuse determination and stubbornness. In doing so, he adds to the tension in the debate (…), whereas his job tells him to do the opposite.”

Late in December, the CE, in view of “the diversity of opinions and questions” within the CE, decided to set aside time for broader “consultation,” to allow the “external pressure” to fall and to permit “the general secretary to think things over on his own, including his continuation in office.”

Several proposals have been made on how the CGT should exit the crisis triggered by revelations about the expenses that the CGt has incurred for Thierry Lepaon’s apartment and office, and by revelations about the severance pay he received on leaving the CGT’s Lower Normandy regional union.

Several CGT federations, including the public services, civil servants and the building trades federations, are demanding the general secretary’s resignation. Some, like the metal-workers and the building trades federations, have suggested the resignation of the whole confederation bureau, sometimes arguing for the setting up of a “collegial leadership” until the next CGT congress, which is scheduled for 2016.

Others are suggesting partial renewal of the confederation bureau, deeming that the resignation of the whole team could have serious consequences for the on-going negotiations.

In a note to its member unions, the CE reports a “problem of cohesion within the confederation bureau” and thinks “proposals on the total or partial evolution of the composition” of the confederation bureau are necessary.

Treasurer Eric Lafont, who approved the controversial expenditures, resigned in December. Before the holidays, Thierry Lepaon spoke out in several media, declaring that he “wouldn’t be the rat that leaves the ship” and saying that his “leaving wouldn’t resolve the political questions that the CGT has to answer today.” However, Lepaon did not rule out his departure: “My only ambition is to unite the CGT. If, tomorrow, I feel that I’m no longer the person who can unite the member unions of the CGT, I’ll leave,” he indicated.

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