PARIS, June 1 — Due to sharpening imperialist competition, French President Sarkozy is now ignoring most of France’s union “leaders” leaving them virtually paralyzed. While these misleaders plead with the government to negotiate, and organize symbolic 24-hour protest strikes, Sarkozy steamrolls right past them with plans to dismantle both the welfare state and the unions.
To pursue its imperialist agenda, the French government needs a docile workforce and ready cash. For example, while visiting Iraqi officials today, foreign minister Kouchner offered them French military instructors to train the Iraqi army. In return, the Iraqi prime minister offered to buy state-of-the-art military technology from France, one of the world’s leading exporters of arms and aircraft.
Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said “there is an urgent need for French companies to be more present here in Iraq.” Sarkozy wants European Union imperialism to penetrate Iraq in the next six months. Therefore, the government is playing hardball with the unions here.
On May 22, thousands struck and over 450,000 demonstrated in 153 cities protesting government “reforms” to force workers to work longer for smaller retirement pensions. But Sarkozy intends to push his reform through, consulting the unions only on precise points and without trying to get approval from even the most sellout unions (Le Figaro, 5/23).
The main teachers’ unions called for another 24-hour strike on May 24 against government plans to axe 11,200 jobs next school year, but while 15,000 demonstrated in Nantes, the action was only partly successful elsewhere. The following day Education Minister Darcos announced the cuts would be maintained and “protest marches won’t change a thing.”
That hard-line position was enough to bust up the union coalition. On May 27, three teachers unions said they were “suspending” the protest movement.
The government then busted up union unity around another 24-hour strike against retirement “reform” planned for June 17. When the smaller unions split with the bigger ones (CGT and CFDL) over the latter’s back-door agreement with the bosses’ organization MEDEF, the government then double-crossed the whole business with a measure undermining the 35-hour work-week.
With the union misleaders at loggerheads, Sarkozy is attacking on yet another front — introducing a bill to make it easier to shift public workers from one ministry to another, and even to shift them out of the public sector altogether.
The government has been able to play off these union misleaders against each other because they’re all competing to become the government’s “preferred negotiating partner.” The big losers are the workers.
Only communist leadership, dedicated not to negotiating with the government to “improve” capitalism, but to overthrowing the government and the capitalist system, offers a way forward for the working class here.J
French Government Boxes in Undocumented Immigrants
PARIS, June 1 — A January 7 government circular which legalizes undocumented workers in dribs and drabs is keeping them at the mercy of the bosses and their government. The circular provides for the legalization of workers who can produce a job contract, proof they’ve been working for three months and a promise from their boss to pay the costs of legalization. But each prefecture is allowed to apply the law as it sees fit.
The result is a feudal system in which legalization depends on a worker’s relationship with his boss, and the boss’s relationship with the prefect. Another aim is to smash the strike movement for legalization launched by undocumented workers in April.