General strike in motion for Dec. 5 in France

 Some 94 percent of the staff of French transit unions announced they would join the Dec. 5 general strike.

Dec. 2 — When the CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail) and Force Ouvrière, the two militant labor union confederations in France, called a general strike for Thursday, Dec. 5, the expectation was that they were calling for a limited but militant expression of their discontent with the government’s retirement “reform.”

That sweeping overhaul will significantly cut the state’s contribution to the pension system, which threatens to curtail unions’ say on contributions and benefits.

Then students and their unions started expressing support. While French universities don’t charge tuition, fees are going up, and student stipends for housing and sustenance are being cut while not keeping up with inflation.

The surprising news is that 94 percent of the operational staff in the transit unions intend to go out on Dec. 5. Operators on local and high-speed train lines have to indicate in advance that they are going to use their constitutional right to strike. Generally from 40 to 60 percent support a strike. Though some unions, generally affiliated with the CGT or SUD (Solidaires, Unitaires, Démocratiques), are always in support, the CFDT (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail) transport unions generally are not. There have been reports on French television that railroad managers are being trained as scabs.

Some sections of the CFDT, the more conservative labor confederation closely connected to the so-called Socialist Party, have announced that they are going to strike on Dec. 5.

Yellow Vest groups, which began demonstrations nationwide on Nov. 17, 2018, have been working with the union movement to figure out how the Yellow Vest approach to organizing can be fitted into the unions’ approach.

Le Monde reported in a Dec. 2 article about a recent meeting between Yellow Vests and union activists in transportation, mainly those from the CGT and a small radical union confederation. Among the tactics discussed were how to use encrypted phone apps to coordinate picket lines at bus depots and how to deliver leaflets when transportation is disrupted.

The Dec. 2 issue of Le Monde, one of the leading bourgeois newspapers in France, ran over 16 articles on issues raised by the general strike.

The French bourgeoisie must fear that the united militancy of workers and the Yellow Vest movement on Dec. 5 will lead to a continuation of the strike on Dec. 6 — or even longer.

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