More than a million people, according to the French CGT, took to the streets, last Saturday, 04/09, in more than 200 French cities to protest against the labour code reform (Khomri law) promoted by François Hollande’s government- Socialist Party. The protest, organized by four unions (CGT, FO, Solidaires and FSU) and three youth organizations (UNEF, UNL, FIDL), was the sixth day of action since the bill was presented to the National Assembly, which will mean a huge regression for the working class’ labour rights in France. A new national demonstration is called for April 26th. The unity between workers and students has an explosive potential, especially in France, the scenario of the historic events of May 1968.

By: Gabriel Huland

France is the fifth global economy, which represents around 20% of the GDP of Europe, and it has one of the most dynamic and combative working classes in the world. The country still lives under the state of emergency ordered by the government after the last attacks on November 13th. According to surveys, more than 70% of the population rejects the reforms, and this explains the massive mobilizations during the last weeks. March 31st was the scenario of another protest, which gathered one million people, across more than 250 cities. After that, the NuitDebou (“rise up at night”) movement was created. It takes as a reference the Spanish15M, and it has brought together thousands of people, every day, in the ‘Place de la République’ to discuss political and social issues such as the labour code reforms, the refugees crisis, the EU, and the global economic crisis.

The social boiling in the Gallic country can preannounce a new wave of social unrest and struggles in the old continent. All this within the limits of the economic stagnation and the series of attacks implemented by local governments and imposed by both the EU and the Troika. The reform of the French labour code, an EU demand since long ago, introduces significant changes in the legislation; it is based on the labour reform approved by the Spanish State of Mariano Rajoy –PP party. When it comes to attack labour rights and protect the interests of enterprises, the differences between the social democrats and conservatives (the two blocs of the European political parties) are nonexistent. After the first protests, the government was compelled to eliminate some parts of the reform, but the movement demands its total withdrawal.

The reform, proposed by Hollande, anticipates, among other changes, low-cost dismissals, the reduction of paid overtime, the supremacy of the collective agreements, between employers and workers, in relation to law and agreements, fragmentation of the workers’ rest time, generalization of temporary contracts, and it allows dismissal if the employers perceive an “economic difficulty.” In other words, it is a reform made to reduce labour costs, to maintain the employers’ benefits and the “enterprises competition”, according to the technocrat language of the government and the EU.

France is living a difficult economic situation. In 2015, the public deficit was 3.9% of the GDP (the EU demands its decrease to 3% before 2017), the public debt is around 95% of GDP (similar to the Spanish State), and the economic growth was practically null (1.1% in 2015, 0.8% in 2014, 0.2% in 2013 and 0.0% in 2012). Due to its imperialist nature, France basically survives thanks to the exportation of high- added value products and profitable remittances coming from its foreign companies, especially those in its former colonies, but also in other semi colonial countries.

The unemployment grew since Hollande assumed the government, even though, last year, more than 10% of the economically active population ascended. The situation turns out more dramatic for the youth, who suffers unemployment levels greater than 25%. More than 30% of the youth doesn’t have a permanent contract and the prospect of having it is pretty distant since 90% of signed contracts are precarious.

Another serious problem, experienced by the French workers and immigrants, is the raising of both Islamophobia and the far- right wing. Political parties like ‘Front National’ are growing voting intentions and they spread a xenophobic and racist discourse. According to the latest presidential polls, if elections take place today, Hollande will not go to a second round, and the political contest would be between Le Pen and the ex-president Nicolás Sarkozy.

The day of action on April 9th did not take place only in France. Concentrations in other European capitals, like Madrid where hundreds of activists met in the emblematic ‘Puerta del Sol’, took place to support the protests in the neighbor country. One important difference between 15M and the recent mobilizations in France is the leading role of both the working class and the trade union movement. The mobilizations in France come with strikes and pickets, and this gives them a superior strength and a bigger fighting spirit. The movement NuitDebout has spread to more than 60 French cities.


Article published in

Translation: Misty M.