Contributed by Jim Hayes
France has been experiencing a wave of industrial unrest, emerging from the energy and mining industries. This has caused serious disruption to petrol and gas supplies, affected nuclear energy production, and left items off shop shelves.
Workers involved demand a 10 percent increase in wages to compensate for the rapidly rising cost of living and for more equal wealth sharing between employers and workers. The largest part of the industry is owned by French multinational Total Energy, which has been able to take advantage of high pieces to obtain large profits. The company has refused to talk with the union involved, the National Federation of Mines and Energy (FNME-CGT)
French union rejects wage talk ‘blackmail’ as refinery strikes grind on
Video from FRANCE 24 English
But by weighing into the dispute and promising to use forceful measures to get supplies moving again, the President Emmanuel Macron. government has succeeded in escalating the tension.
This has drawn in other unions and supporters. The core has been those aligned with fiery socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon and the La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party.
According to observers, 140,000 were out on the streets of Paris yesterday, taking part in a related march against rising prices. A coalition of La France Insoumise and the new Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES) organized the march, and it also called for protection of the right to strike, a sharing of corporate profit, and for action on the climate.
Marchers gather in Paris
Video from CNN-News18
Melenchon was a key speaker.
“We’re going to have a week the likes of which we don’t see very often…Everything is coming together. We are starting it with this march, which is an immense success,” he said.
The movement rising out of the rising cost of living is not new and has been making a mark for some time. New developments show that it is still has traction and is growing.
Unions have called for a much bigger strike for Tuesday 18 October. Tuesday’s strike will be joined by the conservative union, the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), which is limiting itself to holding back on criticism of the government and only a call for increased wages. This shows the depth and breadth of concern within France’s union movement.
Representing the government, Budget Minister Gabriel Attal has branded the discontent as no more than a move to take advantage of the situation to discredit the government.
Thew hard reality for the Macron government is that since this year’s election, it no longer controls parliamentary majority. The parliament is split into three almost equal blocks. The other two are La France Insoumise and the Marine le Pen led Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly). This makes it hard to get legislation passed and even harder to implement policies. The government lacks legitimacy in the eyes of many French. It is not in a good position to deal with rising industrial unrest.