From the TUC

French unions protest against austerity

12 Dec 2011, by in International

French union official Thierry Dedieu explains why French trade unions – the CFDT and CGT – will be demonstrating tomorrow,Tuesday 13 December, against the austerity plans of President Nicholas Sarkozy.

Millions of workers in France and across Europe are facing massive job losses and threats to their social protection. But austerity is not the appropriate response to the crisis. On the contrary, it’s a threat for the economy that could drive us into recession. The burden will fall on the workers, and therefore increase social injustice, driving thousands of households into great difficulties.

The Government took serious decisions on social issues without any previous consultations with unions, contrary to the usual practice in France. The first austerity plan was launched last August, followed by a second one in November, which hits the most vulnerable people. The cuts include:

  • the first day of sick leave in the public sector will not be paid any more;
  • the increase in the retirement age has been brought forward by another year; and
  • a new tax on the ‘mutual insurance companies’ which provide complementary health cover and guarantees payment of all or part of the expenses not covered by the public health system.

French unions are urging the Government to adopt fair measures to fight speculation, to stimulate growth, to support employment, and to guarantee good quality public services. In particular, we want to:

  • end the €4bn tax exemption on overtime pay, which is bad for employment and health;
  • create a supplementary tax level on high revenues, and eliminate ineffective tax exemptions;
  • ensure that the existing public subsidies for the employment of low skilled workers are actually having that effect, rather than merely subsidising low pay.

The French trade unions strongly protest against the austerity plans decided and imposed by the Government. That is why we have called for a day of protest. In Paris, there will be a rally in front of the “Assemblée Nationale”. In the regions, there will be demonstrations in major cities, and probably work stoppages in the transport sector, although the CFDT and CGT decided that workers had already lost too much to be able to give up another day’s pay to strike.

Thierry Dedieu is National Officer at the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), one of France’s five major trades union confederations.