Friday 30 January 2009

France: General strike hits

by Stuart Munckton from Green Left Weekly 30 January 2009 “Huge crowds have taken to the streets in France to protest over the handling of the economic crisis, causing disruption to rail and air services”, according to a January 29 BBC News report. Unions estimated that 2.5 million workers had taken to the streets as part of a one-day general strike to demand action on unemployment, wages and the rising cost of living. Unions had organised more than 200 separate demonstrations across the country. President Nicolas Sarkozy was forced to acknowledge the legitimacy of the concerns of the protests and that his government was compelled to “listen and act”, according to BBC News. The strike involved transport, education and other services and was organised by France’s eight biggest unions. According to a January 29 Bloomberg business news report, France’s rail network, airports and public schools were disrupted. According to BBC News, “banks, hospitals, post offices and courts were also hit”. Bloosmberg reported: “Unions representing doctors, nurses, Bank of France employees, television and radio stations and other civil servants asked for ‘urgent measures for employment and wages’ and a further boost to the economy. “Employees of companies including Electricite de France SA, France Telecom SA and French units of International Business Machines Corp. and Hewlett- Packard Co. are among those participating in the strike.” Public support for the strike was running at 69%, according to a January 25 poll by CSA-Opinion. It’s the first time in Sarkozy’s presidency that a “social movement” has had such public approval, stated Stephane Rozes, head of CSA-Opinion according to Bloomberg. “Many people are furious that Mr Sarkozy said there was no money left to raise wages and consumer spending power, but nonetheless managed to find billions of euros to bail out floundering French banks”, according to BBC News. “Mr Sarkozy cannot ignore this demonstration of anger.” Unemployment is heading towards 10%, and Sarkozy’s plan for cost cutting is creating a feeling that people are paying for a crisis they didn’t cause, a union leader commented to BBC News.

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