Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Oil Refineries and Petrol Depots Blocked as French Union Protests Accelerate.

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Le Monde,  The day after a new day of demonstrations against the ”  El Khomri” labour ‘reforms’ the CGT “oil” section, has called for oil refineries to be blocked. (Via Solidarité Ouvrière)

French unions, students, and radical activists in groups such as Nuit Debout continue to campaign against the ‘Loi Khomri”.

The laws will undermine the ability of unions to reach collective agreements (although unions are weak and divided with only 8% members,  over 98% of French companies operate within the framework of collective bargaining, compared with under 29%, 63.7% public sector, only 16.0% in the private sector,   in the UK, (Here). The ‘reforms’ will encourage local negotiations, means to go over the head of unions, and other devices to weaken the collective system.

They will reduce hard won workers’ rights, getting  rid of the ‘red tape’ that helps the system of Inspecteurs du Travil, enforce decent working conditions.

Contrary to the falsehood being broadcast by the UK ‘Lexit’ campaign the pressure for these changes comes from the French Employers’ organisation, the MEDEF, not Brussels or the European Commission.

As can be seen in this banner which links the government, from Hollande, Valls, and Macron, to the Bosses’ federation.


The action by the CGT is considerably more significant than the clashes between demonstrators and police which have been widely reported internationally.

French President Francois Hollande vowed Tuesday to stick with his controversial attempts to reform the labour market, even as a new round of violent protests broke out.

France 24.

Police fired tear gas in central Paris as an initially peaceful protest organised by unions and students was disrupted by a more radical fringe.

The labour reforms have sparked two months of protests on France’s streets, drawing 68,000 nationwide on Tuesday, authorities said, while organisers put the turnout at 220,000.

Withdraw, withdraw this law of the wealthy, it’s the law of the bosses,” was the message blasted from loudspeakers at the Paris march.

But Hollande said the battle against unemployment was not yet won and he placed the need to reform over his personal popularity, which remains at near-record lows a year ahead of a possible bid for re-election.

“I will not give way, because too many (previous) governments have backed down,” Hollande said in an hour-long interview with Europe 1 radio.

“I prefer that people have an image of a president who made reforms rather than a president who did nothing,” he said.

Police were quick to act as violence by masked youths broke out during the march in central Paris, kicking off another week of nationwide strikes and demonstrations against the package of reforms. Some 87 people were arrested.

Demonstrations were also reported in cities across the country from Marseille in the south to central Lyon and Lille in the north.

Lorry drivers blocked roads and ports in northern and western France, and there were clashes between protesters and police in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes, where thousands more took to the streets.

“We have been ignored, so we will work even harder to make our voices heard,” said Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT union, at the Paris rally.

The government argues the changes contained in the draft law will make France’s notoriously rigid labour market more flexible, but opponents say it will erode job security and do little to bring down the unemployment rate, stuck at 10 percent and nearly 25 percent for young people.

The labour reform, which would make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers, is likely the last major piece of legislation for Hollande, the least popular leader in modern French history who faces a re-election next May.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 20, 2016 at 12:12 pm

2 Responses

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  1. “Contrary to the falsehood being broadcast by the UK ‘Lexit’ campaign the pressure for these changes comes from the French Employers’ organisation, the MEDEF, not Brussels or the European Commission.”

    no sympathy for lexit or whatever, but while indeed the concrete pressure comes from the french capital and their state and therefore they have to be faught, keep in mind:

    the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (no more social-democratic utopia anymore)

    the german upsurge following the “re-unification” which helds other countries under pressure to follow its way of “reforms” to keep track (“Agenda 2010”, “Hartz-Reform”), …


    May 22, 2016 at 4:11 am

  2. There is little doubt that ‘markets’, that is companies with a degree of clout, are itnerntional and have influence in these decions.

    But apart from the Morning Star this what Kevin Ovenden argues now on Counterfire (Obviously having read the post a few days ago which made the point developed in the piece above).

    “Some people in the referendum debate in Britain have argued that the potentially explosive struggle in France has nothing to do with the EU because it is a French government passing an anti-worker law through the French Parliament. But the EU does have a major role. It is to provide additional political pressure to ensure that the French centre-left government does not back down to the trade union and youth resistance, but in fact acquiesces to the French bosses’ demands.”

    “And the pressure is backed by threats of economic measures should the French government not proceed and risk breaching the austerity targets for holding down spending which are set in stone in the EU’s rules. The EU’s role, shown today, in enforcing cuts to workers’ rights and the minimum wage in France is important because the French government is in a weak position. It did not have a majority in parliament to pass the new law. So it relied on authoritarian methods of rule by presidential decree.”


    His only “proof” of involvement is this,

    “here is Recommendation 10 of the Commission’s report into France:

    In the current context of high unemployment, there are risks that the cost of labour at the minimum wage hampers employment of low qualified people… Because of the minimum wage indexation mechanism, here are feedback loops between increases in average wages and changes in the minimum wage, which delay the necessary wage adjustment in response to a weak economic situation.”

    As can be seen this has nothing to do with the two thrusts of the new Law, on collective bargaining and the Code du Travail.

    And a ‘recommendation’ not a threat.

    I hate to add this point, but I doubt if Ovenden is a French speaker or follows this in the French media.

    Andrew Coates

    May 22, 2016 at 11:28 am

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