Workers’ upheaval in France

IssueAugust - September 2016
News by David Polden

French workers launched a wave of strikes after the French premier, Manuel Valls, announced a decision on 10 May to relax France’s protective labour laws by decree, using a rarely-invoked article of the constitution to bypass parliament. The reforms make it easier for employers to prolong the (currently 35-hour) working week, to disregard unions and to lay off staff more cheaply.

Following the use of CRS riot police to break up blockades of fuel depots, the country’s eight oil refineries voted to go on an all-out strike on 23 May, also blockading the country’s two main maritime oil terminals at Le Havre and Marseille.

A national day of action on 26 May saw workers at nuclear power stations joining in, the paralysing of the country’s harbours, and sizeable demonstrations in most major cities. The workers at the Cherbourg nuclear submarine factory struck, blockading it and the neighbouring military harbour. Strikes prevented any national newspapers, apart from the Communist L’Humanité, being published on 26 May. At Le Havre, 30,000 marched, including a 2,500-strong column of dockers. On 5 July, French air controllers struck, stopping all flights into or out of France.

Topics: Labour movement