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Announcement :: International
French unions hold talks with government in move to end “First Job Contract” strikes
by By Antoine Lerougetel and Uli Rippert
06 Apr 2006
France’s major trade unions and student unions, a total of twelve organizations operating under the umbrella of the Intersyndicale, held a joint meeting in Paris Wednesday morning to coordinate negotiations with the Gaullist government over the “First Job Contract” (CPE).
Five trade unions—CGT (General Confederation of Labour), CFDT (French Democratic Confederation of Labour), FO (Workers Power) and two management unions, the CFTC and the CFE-CGC—later held separate discussions with deputies from the ruling Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) party. Other unions will meet with the government in the coming days.
The CPE allows workers under the age of 26 to be dismissed without cause during their first two years of employment. President Jacques Chirac formally ratified the legislation last Friday, but declared that it would not be applied until additional laws were enacted modifying aspects of the CPE. The government proposes to reduce the trial period from two years to one, and require employers to issue sacked workers an explanation for their dismissal.
The unions claim their discussions with the government—coming one day after a second national day of action against the CPE that saw millions across France join in strikes and mass protests—are aimed at ensuring that new legislation nullifies the CPE. However, Chirac, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Interior Minister Nikolas Sarkozy have all rejected a withdrawal of the law.
The real aim of the unions is to work out a deal which, they hope, will provide some degree of political cover for their capitulation, in the face of overwhelming popular opposition, to the attack by the government and big business on long-standing laws that provide a measure of job security for workers.
Working in tandem with the official “left” parties—the Socialist Party and the Communist Party—the unions are looking for a “compromise” which they will hail as a victory for the mass movement, even as they accept the basic thrust of the legislation. At the same time, they aim to wind up the mass mobilization of students and workers that has exposed the isolation of the Gaullist regime and the deep-going popular opposition to its right-wing policies.
There is an unstated agreement between the government, the unions and the left wing of the political establishment that the talks should provide a smokescreen behind which all of the participants work to suppress the popular resistance.
Chirac indicated as much on Wednesday, when he called on the unions to accept their “responsibility” and ensure that the discussions are “constructive,” and demanded that high school and university students end their strikes and occupations and resume their classes.
Le Monde reported that Sarkozy, who is overseeing the talks with the unions, said on Tuesday that “the repeal pure and simple of the CPE is out of the question.” The interior minister, who is also the chairman of the UMP and who has overseen police attacks on demonstrators resulting in thousands of arrests, added that the CPE would be implemented in its existing form if the unions refused to enter into negotiations.
The Intersyndicale on Wednesday issued a public demand for the abrogation of the CPE before April 17, when the National Assembly goes into recess. The unions “have all agreed that they would accept the invitation of the parliamentary groups in order to demand the withdrawal of the CPE,” said René Valladon, a leading official in the FO.
Valladon did not explain why, if the unions remained adamant that the law be repealed, they were bothering to negotiate with a government that has made the exclusion of any such action the precondition for negotiations. The deadline of April 17 indicates the real intent of the union officialdom. It is, they hope, sufficiently far off to give them time to divide and demoralize the mass movement. Not accidentally, high school students in Paris will be on Easter break at that time.
In the meantime, the unions will support no further strike action or join in student protests, effectively isolating continuing efforts by university and high school students to oppose the government’s policies. This will give Sarkozy a green light to intensify police repression against students who are continuing strikes and occupations at hundreds of universities and high schools.
Reporters for the World Socialist Web Site questioned representatives of the trade unions and student unions at a press conference following their joint meeting on Wednesday. A WSWS correspondent asked the union leaders why they had agreed to talks with the government after having previously declared that they would not undertake any negotiations until the CPE was withdrawn. He followed by asking why they had agreed to meet with Sarkozy, thereby strengthening the most right-wing elements within the government.
“Your question is not suitable for a reply from the Intersyndicale,” the FO’s Valladon replied. “You should ask it individually to each of the organisations.”
The WSWS later asked Maryse Dumas, a top official in the CGT, why her union had rejected calls by student delegates for a general strike and had refused to call for the resignation of the Gaullist government. She acknowledged that the CGT, which is politically allied to the Communist Party, opposed both general strike action and a fight to bring down the government.
“We are a trade union organisation and it is our aim not to make the government resign but to put pressure on it to change its policies,” she replied. “Yes, the students called for a general strike, but in our experience strikes cost workers a lot. We think that it is necessary to have forms of action which allow a lot of people to bring enormous pressure to bear on the government.”
Yasmina Vasseur, a high school student and National Students’ Coordinating Committee delegate, spoke with the WSWS after the unions’ press conference. “I would have liked them to follow our call and to act in solidarity with us,” she said. “Now they aren’t, but we will continue our struggle, our demonstrations, our blockades of high schools and universities, our disruption actions.”
She continued: “I can’t understand why the unions aren’t supporting us. I’m disappointed—we should be fighting all together.”
While the unions enter into talks with the government and move to end the student protests, the official “left” parties seek to divert anti-government sentiment into politically safe electoral channels. The youth wing of the Socialist Party released a statement on Tuesday which, referring to next year’s presidential elections, declared: “The countdown is starting tonight: D-Day minus 382!”
The Riposte Collective—an alliance that includes, along with the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Greens and the “far left” Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire—met Wednesday evening. No press conference was held after the closed meeting and no statement was issued.
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The French are Wussies
(No verified email address)
09 Apr 2006
This proves it!!
- Gallic Wars
- Lost. In a war whose ending foreshadows the next 2000 years of French history, France is conquered by of all things, an Italian. [Or at ths time in history, a Roman -ed.]
- Hundred Years War
- Mostly lost, saved at last by female schizophrenic who inadvertently creates The First Rule of French Warfare; "France's armies are victorious only when not led by a Frenchman." Sainted.
- Italian Wars
- Lost. France becomes the first and only country to ever lose two wars when fighting Italians.
- Wars of Religion
- France goes 0-5-4 against the Huguenots
- Thirty Years War
- France is technically not a participant, but manages to get invaded anyway. Claims a tie on the basis that eventually the other participants started ignoring her.
- War of Revolution
- Tied. Frenchmen take to wearing red flowerpots as chapeaux.
- The Dutch War
- War of the Augsburg League/King William's War/French and Indian War
- Lost, but claimed as a tie. Three ties in a row induces deluded Frogophiles the world over to label the period as the height of French military power.
- War of the Spanish Succession
- Lost. The War also gave the French their first taste of a Marlborough, which they have loved every since.
- American Revolution
- In a move that will become quite familiar to future Americans, France claims a win even though the English colonists saw far more action. This is later known as "de Gaulle Syndrome", and leads to the Second Rule of French Warfare; "France only wins when America does most of the fighting."
- French Revolution
- Won, primarily due the fact that the opponent was also French.
- The Napoleonic Wars
- Lost. Temporary victories (remember the First Rule!) due to leadership of a Corsican, who ended up being no match for a British footwear designer.
- The Franco-Prussian War
- Lost. Germany first plays the role of drunk Frat boy to France's ugly girl home alone on a Saturday night.
- World War I
- Tied and on the way to losing, France is saved by the United States [Entering the war late -ed.]. Thousands of French women find out what it's like to not only sleep with a winner, but one who doesn't call her "Fraulein." Sadly, widespread use of condoms by American forces forestalls any improvement in the French bloodline.
- World War II
- Lost. Conquered French liberated by the United States and Britain just as they finish learning the Horst Wessel Song.
- War in Indochina
- Lost. French forces plead sickness; take to bed with the Dien Bien Flu
- Algerian Rebellion
- Lost. Loss marks the first defeat of a western army by a Non-Turkic Muslim force since the Crusades, and produces the First Rule of Muslim Warfare; "We can always beat the French." This rule is identical to the First Rules of the Italians, Russians, Germans, English, Dutch, Spanish, Vietnamese and Esquimaux.
- War on Terrorism
- France, keeping in mind its recent history, surrenders to Germans and Muslims just to be safe. Attempts to surrender to Vietnamese ambassador fail after he takes refuge in a McDonald's.
The question for any country silly enough to count on the French should not be "Can we count on the French?", but rather "How long until France collapses?"
"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. All you do is leave behind a lot of noisy baggage."
Or, better still, the quote from last week's Wall Street Journal: "They're there when they need you."
With only an hour and a half of research, Jonathan Duczkowski provided the following losses:
Norse invasions, 841-911.
After having their way with the French for 70 years, the Norse are bribed by a French King named Charles the Simple (really!) who gave them Normandy in return for peace. Normans proceed to become just about the only positive military bonus in France's [favour] for next 500 years.
France attempts to take advantage of Mexico's weakness following its thorough thrashing by the U.S. 20 years earlier ("Halls of Montezuma"). Not surprisingly, the only unit to distinguish itself is the French Foreign Legion (consisting of, by definition, non-Frenchmen). Booted out of the country a little over a year after arrival.
Panama jungles 1881-1890.
No one but nature to fight, France still loses; canal is eventually built by the U.S. 1904-1914.
Should be noted that the Grand Armee was largely (~%50) composed of non-Frenchmen after 1804 or so. Mainly disgruntled minorities and anti-monarchists. Not surprisingly, these performed better than the French on many occasions.
French defeated by rebellion after sacrificing 4,000 Poles to yellow fever. Shows another rule of French warfare; when in doubt, send an ally.
British were far more charming then French, ended up victors. Therefore the British are well known for their tea, and the French for their whine (er, wine...). Ensures 200 years of bad teeth in England.
Barbary Wars, middle ages-1830.
Pirates in North Africa continually harass European shipping in Meditteranean. France's solution: pay them to leave us alone. America's solution: kick their asses ("the Shores of Tripoli"). [America's] first overseas victories, won 1801-1815.
1798-1801, Quasi-War with U.S.
French privateers (semi-legal pirates) attack U.S. shipping. U.S. fights France at sea for 3 years; French eventually cave; sets precedent for next 200 years of Franco-American relations.
Moors in Spain, late 700s-early 800s.
Even with Charlemagne leading them against an enemy living in a hostile land, French are unable to make much progress. Hide behind Pyrennes until the modern day.
French-on-French losses (probably should be counted as victories too, just to be fair):
1208: Albigenses Crusade, French massacared by French.
When asked how to differentiate a heretic from the faithful, response was "Kill them all. God will know His own." Lesson: French are badasses when fighting unarmed men, women and children.
St. Bartholomew Day Massacre, August 24, 1572.
Once again, French-on-French slaughter.
Philip Augustus of France throws hissy-fit, leaves Crusade for Richard the Lion Heart to finish.
St. Louis of France leads Crusade to Egypt. Resoundingly crushed.
St. Louis back in action, this time in Tunis. See Seventh Crusade.
Also should be noted that France attempted to hide behind the Maginot line, sticking their head in the sand and pretending that the Germans would enter France that way. By doing so, the Germans would have been breaking with their traditional route of invading France, entering through Belgium (Napoleonic Wars, Franco-Prussian War, World War I, etc.). French ignored this though, and put all their effort into these defenses.
Seven year War 1756-1763
Lost: after getting hammered by Frederick the Great of Prussia (yep, the Germans again) at Rossbach, the French were held off for the remainder of the War by Frederick of Brunswick and a hodge-podge army including some Brits. War also saw France kicked out of Canada (Wolfe at Quebec) and India (Clive at Plassey).