Saturday, October 14, 2017

France: Close to half a million workers join public sector strike

Lisbeth Latham

Hundreds of thousands of workers, retirees and students joined a third day of strikes and protests across France on October 10. The protests are part of ongoing efforts by unions, left parties and progressive organisations to defeat attacks on workers and the public service by President Emmanuel Macron.

Protests were held in 140 cities and towns and drew 400,000 people into the streets.

At the centre of the day was a strike called by the nine union confederations active in France's public sector. The strike was aimed at stopping the planned 120,000 job cuts in the sector.

The General Confederation of Workers (CGT) estimated participation of 30-50% across the public sector.

While the mobilised numbers sound impressive, the movement is struggling to build momentum. The mobilisations on October 10 were slightly smaller than those on September 12, although larger than the September 21 mobilisations.

More importantly, the current movement is small compared to recent mass labour mobilisations in France.

Last year's movement against the El Khomri labour laws peaked with two national mobilisations of more than one million people. The movements in 2009 and 2010 saw multiple united mobilisations that drew more than three million people into the streets.

There are several reasons for the smaller mobilisations.

One of these has been the government's use of France's undemocratic constitution to rush through emergency ordinances without a parliamentary vote. This has reduced the extent to which people see attempts to defeat the attacks as realistic. (There will be a vote on Macron’s anti-worker laws in late November, more than two months after the ordinances came into effect)

The trade union Solidaires argued in a statement on October 12 that the present mobilisations demonstrate a widespread willingness to mobilise against the laws. However, the ability to fully engage that willingness has been undermined by divisions within the union movement as to what parts of the laws should be opposed and how they should be opposed.

The leaderships of reformist union confederations such as the French Confederation of Democratic Workers (CFDT) have been broadly supportive of sections of the legislation.

Rather than call on members to join mobilisations, they have sought to engage in dialogue with the government regarding the text of the ordinances. They have expressed concern that mobilisations against the ordinances would undermine future negotiations with the government.

The more militant unions have instead pushed a line of rejecting the changes and mobilising workers in the streets. However, they have done so inconsistently and in ways that have not taken full advantage of breaks in the CFDT's approach.

For example, when CFDT's rail federation, along with Solidaires' rail federation, called for a strike on October 10 in support of the public sector strike, the CGT's rail federation – the largest union in the railways – refused to join the strike. Instead, it encouraged members to join the protests, meaning the strike had minimal impact on rail services.

Divisions within the movement are not just a symptom of differing assessments of the attacks and how best to fight them. They also reflect a jockeying for positions by the confederations in anticipation of union representation elections next year.

The CFDT has historically been France's second confederation behind the CGT. Today it is either the principle confederation, or at least challenging for that position in the majority of industries.

CFDT officials pointed out at mass meetings of tens of thousands of activists and officials on October 3 that they believe the current moderate approach will strengthen the CFDT’s hand in the elections.
However, the New Anti-Capitalist Party reported on October 6 that CFDT’s leaders had to spend much of those meetings defending their conservative line from criticisms from the ranks.

One positive development has been that leaders from France’s union confederations held a joint meeting on October 9. This is the first such meeting to be held during the current campaign, despite calls by Solidaires for a joint meeting since May.

Unfortunately, the meeting did not issue a joint call for united mobilisation, although Solidaires suggested that in addition to themselves, the CGT and the United Union Federation, which have all been actively pushing for joint mobilisation, there is also support for such a call from Workers Force and the French Confederation of Management – General Confederation of Executives.

The meeting did support a call for a further meeting of union leaderships on October 24, which will take stock of the full range of social attacks coming from the government. Solidaires leaders have expressed hope that the meeting will call a joint mobilisation for early November.

On October 9, the CGT called a confederation-wide strike for October 19. CGT national secretary Fabrice Angei said in a statement: “Our citizens are increasingly challenging the orders, 65% of them reject them and 57% approve of the mobilisations against the government project … the government is conducting a comprehensive deconstruction of the French social model.

“We will mobilise on October 19 against this social destruction, and for a 32-hour week, salary increases and retirement for all via mutualisation”.

Solidaires issued a statement on October 12 in support of the October 19 mobilisation, arguing that it is an opportunity to build public awareness and unify and strengthen the unions’ bases of support in the public and private sector in order to better challenge the government.


[Originally published in Green Left Weekly #1157]


Friday, October 13, 2017

Beyond the survey, building the struggle for queer rights

Lisbeth Latham

While the marriage equality campaign is currently focused on maximising a Yes response in the national survey, supporters of marriage equality and of LGBTI rights more generally need to look beyond the horizon of the survey itself.

This is because a majority Yes in the survey will not definitively resolve the question of marriage equality and because there are many other challenges facing the LGBTI community, particularly around legal rights.

The national survey closes on November 7, with results due to be announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on November 15. The ABS has said the number of returns in the survey is higher than anticipated. At the start of the campaign there had been a fear of complacency, but the higher than expected returns, along with polls continuing to show high levels of support for marriage equality, are both positive signs for a strong Yes response.

However, a Yes response, no matter how strong, does not guarantee that a marriage equality bill will be introduced to parliament, nor that there will sufficient support in parliament for it to pass.
Importantly, it is clear that the right, aware that the survey has not allowed them to defeat the push for marriage equality, is now seeking ways to undermine the language of any enabling legislation. This push would enshrine "religious freedom" in any marriage equality bill, which would dramatically expand in what circumstances "religious" individuals could legally discriminate against people they believe are in a same sex relationship.

The campaign must build pressure for a bill to be put and ensure it contains no expansion in religious exemptions to anti-discrimination acts.

Moving beyond the fight for marriage equality, there are several important legal rights and protections that need to be won to ensure violence and discrimination against members of the LGBTI community no longer have legal sanction in Australia. These include:

  • Ending of the gay/trans panic defence, which remains on the books in South Australia;
  • Prohibiting unnecessary surgical or other medical treatment of intersex children, including forced coercive interventions, until they reach an age at which they can provide their free, prior and informed consent;
  • Establishing a national standard for gender recognition that has no requirement beyond an affirmed decision of the individual. At present only the ACT and SA do not require trans individuals to undergo surgery prior to achieving gender recognition, but they still require a statement that the individual has had clinical treatment by an Australian psychologist or psychiatrist. This stigmatises and pathologises trans experiences, although not as much as in other states;
  • Rolling back the religious exemptions to the Anti-Discrimination laws in all Australian jurisdictions;
  • Ensuring that oppression on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity are grounds for asylum and that this is not based on individuals proving that they are sufficiently queer;
  • Enshrining the right for trans and non-binary individuals to use public facilities that correspond with their affirmed gender identity;
  • Enabling individuals under the age of 18 to affirm their gender at school and have this affirmation respected and protected, without requiring formal gender recognition but giving them the right to change their gender marker if they choose;
  • Ending the requirement for transgender minors to go to the Family Court to access hormones. Australia is the only jurisdiction with such a requirement, which creates a significant and unnecessary barrier to transgender individuals affirming their gender in the way they wish. Medical support with informed consent of the minor should be sufficient, as it is with accessing contraceptive pills.
Any victory for marriage equality will see the right push back on other issues concerning the rights of the LGBTI community. This push back must be firmly resisted.

We must demand the reinstatement of funding for Safe Schools and push for its expansion to more schools. Equally importantly, we should defend the rights of gender non-conforming children, including the ending of gender-based uniform restrictions — restricting dresses to "girls" and pants/shorts to "boys" places bizarre restrictions on how children and adolescents are able to choose their school clothes.

The campaign to build the strongest possible support for Yes in the survey is important work.

However, if the horizons of the LGBTI communities and their supporters do not reach beyond this objective then we risk losing an opportunity to make significant strides in the rights and abilities of members of the community to live their authentic lives.


[This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1157]


Friday, October 6, 2017

France: Movement builds against anti-worker measures

Lisbeth Latham

France’s Council of Ministers approved five ordinances on September 22 that undermine union power and employment rights within France’s Labour Code, which came into effect the next day.

The government imposed these changes by using undemocratic measures in France’s constitution, which allows it to push new measures into law without passing legislation through parliament.

In the face of this, the movement against the changes continues to build. 

France Insoumise (France Unbowed, FI) held a national convergence in Paris on September 23 against what it described as a “social coup”. The protest mobilised 150,000 people — more than twice the size of the largest Paris mobilisation so far against these attacks.

FI leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told the crowd: “We were not able to discuss a single line, a single page, of the ordinances!”

The Washington Post reported that Melenchon said “we must bring forward the strength of our people in battle and in the streets”.

On September 26 the transport federations of the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), Workers’ Force (FO) and National Union of Autonomous Unions (UNSA) began sustained strike action against the changes, including blockades of oil depots and major highways. As a result, there have been widespread petrol shortages at service stations.

On September 28, there were mobilisations across France by retired workers and students. These protests targeted the changes to the labour code, but also the broader assault by President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe on social conditions.

In particular, protesters targeted the 1.7% rise in the Generalised Social Contribution (CSG) and the failure of thousands of students to receive selection advice for entry into university. The CSG contributes to the funding of France’s social security system and is paid by both workers and retirees.
Macron and France’s peak employer organisation, MEDEF, hoped that worker and union resistance would dissipate with the ordinances coming into effect. Macron has downplayed the significance of the movement, telling CNN: “I believe in democracy” and that “democracy is not in the street”.

Instead, the resistance continues to grow.

Unions have called for a joint public and private sector strike on October 10. This will be the first joint strike by France’s public sector unions in 10 years.

Unfortunately, the unity between unions within the public sector has not been replicated in the private sector. An October 3 mass meeting of 10,000 officials and activists of the conservative French Confederation of Democratic Workers (CFDT), the largest confederation in the private sector, refused to endorse strike action on October 10.

However, there was opposition to this conservative approach expressed at the October 3 meeting, which could result in more CFDT members joining the October 10 protests than occurred with the previous France-wide protests against the attacks on September 12 and 21.
[This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1156]


Saturday, September 23, 2017

France: Thousands join new round of protests against anti-worker attacks

Lisbeth Latham

About 250,000 people joined 400 protests in cities and towns across France on September 21, the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) said, in the second round of mass protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s anti-worker laws.

This was about half the number of people who mobilised for the first round of protests and strikes on September 12. The protests came the day before a meeting of the Council of Ministers to ratify five ordinances, which will undermine the rights of workers and their unions.

If ratified, the ordinances will immediately come into effect. However, the government will still need to pass legislation to permanently incorporate them into France’s Labour Law.

Much of the mainstream media has expressed hope that the lower turnout for the September 21 protests is a sign of the movement quickly losing momentum. Left unions and parties, however, remain optimistic that the movement can continue to build and beat back the current attacks.

CGT leaders described September 21 as a success and proof “that after September 12, the movement is for the long-term”.

In a statement, the CGT said: “The Council of Ministers of September 22 must hear that the citizens overwhelmingly condemn and reject the reform of the labour law and regressive government measures for young people, employees of private and public companies, retirees and the self-employed.”

The smaller scale of the mobilisations was expected. There were several factors that made larger mobilisations on September 21 unlikely.

One factor was that it was held so close to the first day of protest. Nonetheless, holding a second day of action the day prior to the Council of Ministers meeting was important to demonstrate clear opposition to the ordinances.

A second factor, particularly in Paris, was that the left-wing group France Insoumise (France Unbowed) had called for a mobilisation against the laws for September 23. It is bussing in activists from across France for the protests on a day that allows people to demonstrate without missing a day of work.

A third factor is that, at present, the mobilisations are supported by a minority of unions — primarily the CGT and the trade union Solidaires. The other union confederations have not been supporting the mobilisations, although some federations and regional unions have backed the protests.

There are, however, signs this could be changing. In the lead-up to and after September 12, a number of French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) federations and regional leaders expressed frustration at the CFDT leadership’s refusal to support the movement.

This frustration will have been furthered by the publication in the left-wing daily Liberation of an agreement between France’s five main confederations, including the CFDT, regarding “red lines” which the confederations would not accept the legislation crossing. The government has now crossed them, with little or no objection from the more conservative unions.

There are now signs that these unions are starting to be drawn into the movement. La Figaro reported on September 20 that after a breakdown in talks with the government, Workers’ Force (FO) and the National Union of Autonomous Workers (UNSA) have joined the CGT in calling for an indefinite road transport strike against the new labour laws.

The CGT has expressed a desire to extend the strike to waste collection, as well as passenger and urban transport.

Also on September 18, all nine union confederations represented in France’s public service announced a united strike for October 10 against pay freezes and the government’s planned cutting of 120,000 jobs. This will be the first joint strike in the French public sector for 10 years.

These developments give credence to the CGT’s hopes that the movement is on the rise.


This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1154


Friday, September 22, 2017

Why marriage equality is union business

Lisbeth Latham

In the lead up to and following the announcement of the plebiscite, now survey, on changing the Marriage Act, unions have played a prominent role in promoting and resourcing the Yes campaign.

Senior union officials have been speakers at rallies, there have been large union contingents at protest marches and unions — especially peak bodies such as Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Australian Council of Trade Unions — have been providing infrastructure to help build the capacity for the campaign to ensure maximum participation and support for the Yes side.

This strong position in support of marriage equality has attracted criticism from some union members as both a distraction from the “core business” of unions — wages and conditions — and as a failure by unions to “respect the views of members who are opposed to marriage equality”.

However, support by unions for marriage equality is consistent with long traditions within the labour movement of solidarity with oppressed and marginalised communities, and in support of democratic rights — approaches that help to build and strengthen the capacity of the union movement to win improvements for members, not just on the job, but throughout society.

Examples of the kinds of criticisms that unions supporting marriage equality have received can be seen on a recent post on the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union’s (CFMEU) Construction & General Division’s Facebook page of an email to the union by a member.

The email was from a gay CFMEU member thanking the union for taking a strong position in support of marriage equality and for organising a toolbox discussion around the issue on their worksite. It also raised concerns about the homophobic behaviour by some workmates during the discussion.

At the time of writing, this post has been shared 204 times and had attracted 123 comments. While the vast majority of these comments have been positive, there have been negative commenters who argue that the CFMEU’s support for marriage equality is a distraction from the union achieving improvements in wages and conditions for members and a violation of the rights of those members who do not support marriage equality.

These criticisms are not new and reflect a conservative view of unionism in which the role of the union in the lives of its members starts and finishes at the entrance to the workplace and unions should not seek to mobilise its members and resources on broader political questions.

The current Marriage Act and the No campaign are having a negative impact on the working lives of LGBTI union members. The act denies these union members of fundamental rights and the “debate” around the survey is contributing to a toxic culture where a section of society feel justified in vilifying LGBTI people in the street and in the workplace.

This alone is a strong basis for unions to support their members and push for marriage equality as it is the embodiment of the core union tenant that “an injury to one is an injury to all”.

Moreover as, CFMEU South Australia branch secretary Aaron Cartlege said in his address to the marriage equality rally in Adelaide: “Why does the CFMEU back the Yes vote? I'll tell you why we back the Yes vote ... for 15 years we’ve been campaigning because we’re discriminated against on building sites with draconian laws that target our members every day.

“How can we be calling for ‘one law for all’ and then have a different view when it comes to this?"

The conservative vision of unionism runs counter to the long tradition within Australian unionism, particularly within left unions such as the CFMEU, which sees the union movement as having a vital role to play in building a better world for all workers.

This vision has seen Australian unions actively campaign around issues affecting working people globally: opposition to conscription; refusing to load pig iron destined for the Japanese war machine that had invaded China; refusing to load Dutch ships in support of the Indonesian national liberation struggle; supporting striking Aboriginal pastoral workers and the struggle of Aboriginal land rights; opposition to South African Apartheid; green bans on developments that robbed communities of environmental and cultural heritage; opposition to Australian involvement in the Vietnam war and the Iraq war; in support of the East Timorese liberation struggle; and in support of the right of refugees to claim asylum in Australia, to name just a few.

These campaigns did not lead directly to improved wages and conditions on the job — but they contributed to the mobilising capacity of unions both on and off the job and helped to build respect within the broader community for the central role that unions play in building a socially just and liveable planet.
For all these reasons marriage equality is union business.


Lisbeth Latham is a member of the Socialist Alliance

This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1154


Saturday, September 16, 2017

How employers are attacking workers

Lisbeth Latham An increasing number of employers are asking themselves why they should have to abide by the terms of an Enterprise Agreement with their workers and unions, when it would cost less money if they didn't. Many have come to the conclusion that they should simply escape the obligations of their agreements.

The problem for workers is that companies who attempt this find that the Fair Work Commission (FWC) and the federal government increasingly support the idea that companies should be able to escape agreements so they can pay their workers to lower wages and have fewer limitations on their management prerogative.

The most recent example of this is the decision by FWC to terminate the Murdoch University Academic and General Staff Enterprise Agreement as of September 26. The effect of this decision, albeit with an undertaking from the employer to maintain wages, leave and other conditions for six months, is:

  • Salaries could fall by between 20% and 39%;
  • Superannuation contributions could fall from 17% to 12.5%;
  • Redundancy payments could fall by at least 33% for academic staff and up to 80% for professional staff;
  • Parental leave could become unpaid leave;
  • Personal leave could fall from 12 days a year to 10;
  • Academic workload regulation could disappear; and
  • Staff will become dependent on promises and policies that the university could change at any time for any reason.
FWC Commissioner BD Williams accepted Murdoch University management’s argument that it is facing serious financial difficulty and that 25 of the agreement’s clauses “were not supportive to Murdoch operating as a flexible and efficient enterprise” and that the termination of the agreement would strengthen the position of Murdoch management to negotiate a new agreement with the clauses it is seeking.
On August 30, federal education minister Simon Birmingham called on all universities to take advantage of this opportunity.
The criteria for seeking the termination of an agreement is extremely limited. The agreement must have passed the nominal expiry date; a genuine attempt must have been made to reach agreement; it needs to be in the public interest; and the commission must consider it appropriate to terminate the agreement.
The “public good” test is increasingly low. The test used in the Murdoch case was the potential impact on the WA state economy if Murdoch wages were to revert to the award. Universities are relatively large employers, but they are still only small components of the total wages paid in any state.
It would seem unlikely that many private employers would have a wage bill large enough to have a major impact on the economy, making the test largely meaningless.

Change the rules

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the ACTU have both rightly pointed to the Murdoch decision as further evidence of the need to change the rules of Australia's industrial relations system.
NTEU WA Division Secretary Gage Gooding said: “The way in which this agreement has been terminated is another example that our laws are badly broken and must change to ensure the just treatment of workers”.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said: “This is the latest in a very long list of companies that have exploited this incredibly destructive precedent set by the Aurizon case at Fair Work. We need immediate action to stop companies completely bypassing the normal bargaining process and reaching for this nuclear option … we need to change the rules so they are not used by employers to blackmail workers into accepting lower pay and job security.”
Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie has announced his intention to introduce a private members bill to ban such “nuclear” terminations of enterprise agreements.
But it is important to note that making it tougher to terminate agreements — or even putting the decision in the hands of workers and their unions — would only close the door on one avenue for employers to seek to massively undermine agreements through reversion to the award. Options such as using labour hire or outsourcing work to contractors would remain and enterprising companies could find further options to escape an agreement.
The fundamental problem is the massive gap between the wages and conditions in the majority of EBAs and the underlying awards and the ways employers can seek to employ new workers paid at the award rate or just above it.
While awards were the primary mechanism of providing employment conditions prior to the introduction of enterprise bargaining in 1993, unions had always been able to secure above award conditions. These conditions could then be incorporated into the underlying award and from there flow onto other awards. This process was central to the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (and its precursors’) “hot shop approach” to collective bargaining.

Gap between enterprise agreements and awards

With the passing of the 1993 Industrial Relations Reform Act and the subsequent Workplace Relations Act the relationship between local conditions and awards became one directional: only awards could affect conditions in an individual workplace not the other way around. This meant that over time there was a gap grew between the wages and conditions in enterprise agreements and the underlying awards.
The gap between enterprise agreements and awards was exacerbated by the Howard government's award stripping, which limited the number and types of matters that could be included in an award. This not only massively increased the gap between awards and agreements, but at a stroke of a pen it stripped hundreds of thousands of workers of rights they had previously won.
Re-establishing a two-way relationship between local working conditions enshrined in an agreement and industry-wide award conditions will not only help protect agreements from being undercut by employers seeking to revert to the award, but also enable the hard work of workers seeking to improve their conditions to flow onto other workers in their industry, helping to build social solidarity and limit the competitive advantage of employers who resist enterprise agreements.
Such a shift would be deeply opposed by employers and would be a fundamental break with the direction and thinking of the FWC and its precursor over the past 25 years. But it would be a significant change that could dramatically improve the working lives of millions of workers.
However, simply changing the rules would not be enough, as history has shown that bodies like the FWC are not neutral umpires who can be relied upon to deliver fairness to working people. Wage justice will require an ongoing movement of working people in support of improved wages and conditions.
Originally published in Green Left Weekly #1153


Friday, September 15, 2017

France: Mass protests begin against Macron’s attacks

Lisbeth Latham

France’s militant unions held the first major day of protest on September 12 against the ordinances introduced by the government to undermine the country’s labour laws.

Their protests were seen as the start of the campaign to defend workers’ rights. It served as a major test for the capacity of the movement to mobilise working people while France’s unions are divided as to how to respond to the attacks.

The protests included more than 4000 strikes and protests in 200 cities and towns across France. The General Confederation of Workers (CGT) estimated that 500,000 people took part. The largest protests were in Paris and Marseille, where 60,000 marched.

Amid debate over the size and success of the protests, the CGT said in a statement the day was a “veritable success”.

There were a number of factors that made it harder to mobilise workers on September 12 compared with the demonstrations against anti-worker laws last year. The text of the proposed law was published only two weeks before the protest and the divisions in the labour movement are worse than last year.

More conservative federations refused to take part, with only the CGT, United Union Federation (FSU) and the trade union Solidaires supporting the mobilisations.

The September 12 protests were also supported by France’s main university and high school student unions.

However the Workers’ Force (FO) confederation, which supported last year’s protests, refused to call on its members to mobilise. Instead, it has sought to take part in consultations with the government along with the more right-wing Democratic Confederation of French Workers (CFDT) and the French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC). The CFDT and CFTC have previously been open to supporting some “liberalisation” of French labour laws.

All three groups have raised concerns about sections of the text. CFDT deputy secretary general Veronique Descacq justified the union’s refusal to mobilise by arguing that changes in the proposed text could be best made through “outreach work with the employees and conveying the unions’ negative opinions in the consultation bodies”.

There are signs, however, that the movement will be able to broaden out beyond France’s militant unions. Sections of the FO and CFDT did call on their members to join the protests.

For instance, secretary-general of the CFDT Metallurgy in Rhone Khaled Boughanmi told Liberation of his support for the protests: “I was elected to reject social decline.”

An important component in the campaign to broaden the movement has been the Social Front, which brings together a range of unions and social movements. It was established in April and initiated the first mobilisations against Emmanuel Macron after his victory in the presidential election.

The Social Front has been central in building smaller mobilisations against Macron and in linking militant forces within the different union confederations.

The Social Front has sought to tap into the widespread antipathy to mainstream politics reflected in the record low participation in the presidential and parliamentary elections, and the ongoing slide in Macron's popularity.

Macron has seen his polularity fall in his first 100 days in office, something which previously occurred only with president Jaques Chirac. City AM reported on August 27 that Macron’s approval rating had fallen to 40% while his disapproval rating had risen to 57%.

Despite this, Macron is persevering with his planned assault on workers’ rights, which he demagogically claims will lower unemployment.

The key changes are:

  • Cutting the number of workplace representatives in small- and medium-sized enterprises by amalgamating existing representative bodies; 
  • Cutting and capping the amount of compensation that workers who have been unfairly dismissed can receive; 
  • Increasing the range of conditions that can be negotiated at the enterprise level, rather than in national or industry-wide agreements. Such conditions can undercut the higher level conditions. Due to changes in the laws last year, a vote on these matters can be initiated with the support of unions representing just 30% of the workforce, even if unions representing more than 50% of workers oppose the agreement (previously these unions would have been able to veto a vote); 
  • Increase the use of fixed-term contracts in preference to permanent employment; 
  • Enable companies to initiate changes to workers’ contracts (even if the company is profitable) and dismiss workers who reject a change (previously such changes required workers’ agreement); 
  • When assessing whether redundancies should go ahead in multinational companies with sites located in France, only the performance of the parts of the company in France will be considered.
There is widespread anger against these attacks, with polls showing most people support the movement against the changes. But successive governments have been able to push through a series of attacks on working people and their unions by staring down protests and relying on the movement collapsing once laws are passed.

This time, Macron is also relying on using France’s undemocratic constitution to use his executive power to put temporary ordinances in place, seeking to pass the legislation through parliament later. The text of the labour ordinances was published on August 31.

The Council of State is expected to approve the labour ordinances on September 22 and the ordinances will take effect from that time. It is unclear when bills converting the ordinances to laws will be introduced to parliament.

To defeat this push, the movement will have to build an escalating campaign — creating the fear in the government’s mind that they might lose control. The next step will be the strikes and protests called by the CGT for September 21 and protests called by Jean-Luc Melenchon’s left-wing group France Unbowed (FI) at the Bastille on September 23.

This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1153


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