June 1, 2023

A ninth day of mobilization against a backdrop of strong tensions

Ninth day of mobilization against the pension reform this Thursday. It is likely to take place in an even more electric climate than the previous ones. Due to the use of 49.3 and the motion of censure which was narrowly passed in the process. But also numerous demonstrations, spontaneous or organized, during the following days.

The rise in tensions during these rallies, with degradations on the demonstrators’ side and police violence, raises fears of strong tensions on Thursday. Attendance will be closely monitored. March 7 was massive but did not bring France to a standstill. March 15 marked a drop in mobilization.

Words very badly perceived

The intervention of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, did not calm the discontent. Although the Head of State once again praised the calm of the trade union demonstrations, his remarks on the “crowd” which has “no legitimacy in the face of the people who express themselves, sovereign, through their elected representatives” were very badly perceived by the unions. He did not convince about his desire to relaunch a dialogue with employee organizations. His assertion that no union had offered a compromise on pensions sparked outrage in their ranks.

“Denial and lies”, “about the fact that there would only be responsibility in one camp, […] on the fact that we [n’aurait] not made any counter-proposals, ”fulminated the secretary general of the CFDT, Laurent Berger. “The foutage of the mouth and contempt for the millions of people who demonstrate”, slammed the boss of the CGT. Philippe Martinez also judged “properly scandalous” to “compare the situation in France with what happened in the United States” following the election of Joe Biden and “the invasion of the Capitol by hordes of ‘Americans rather far-right’.

Rebound in participation?

“It’s a provocation,” added François Hommeril, the boss of the CFE-CGC executives union, triumphantly re-elected at its head for a final term this Wednesday in Tours. Referring to a “scratched record”, he added that Emmanuel Macron was “as if nothing had happened for two months, […] He went to the moon, maybe he was with Thomas Pesquet, I don’t know,” he quipped. “Enough blabla… we want the withdrawal”, tweeted the secretary general of Unsa, Laurent Escure, lapidary.

These ingredients could cause a rebound in participation compared to March 15, when less than 500,000 people according to the police and 1.7 million people according to the CGT, had demonstrated. Will he go so far as to reach or even exceed the record of March 7 when the police had counted 1.28 million demonstrators, the CGT inflating its figures to 3.5 million? On the eve of the meeting, territorial intelligence was counting on 600,000 to 800,000 people, according to a note quoted by “Le Parisien”.

On Wednesday, at the national level, 14.3% of service stations are experiencing a shortage of at least one type of fuel. For Thursday, the SNUipp-FSU, the first union in primary education, has planned between 40 and 50% of primary school teachers on strike. The situation should also be very disrupted in transport, in particular trains – half of the TGVs will run – and around 30% of flights will be canceled from Paris-Orly.

The challenge for the unions will be to maintain the pressure for the future. The employee organizations are working on the drafting of a common memorandum to be sent to the Constitutional Council and always have their sights set on the shared initiative referendum (RIP) if the text is validated.

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