Two communiques from France

Submitted by AWL on 6 April, 2020 - 7:15 Author: Ed Maltby
France Covid-19

Photo by Fran Boloni on Unsplash


We reproduce the Ile-de-France union regions (URIF) communiqué of March 23, 2020; and the declaration issued by the national coordination of strikers of 28 March.

Document 1 (23 March)
A common position along these lines should be taken at the national level. Cross-union unity shouldn't be dissolved in the state of emergency
Communiqué of URIFS CGT, FO, FSU, Solidaires, UNEF, UNL

The trade union regional bodies of Ile-de-France (URIF) of the unions CGT, FO, Solidaires, FSU, with [student unons] UNEF and UNL, reject the law declaring a "state of health emergency" adopted yesterday in the National Assembly. This law does not take any measures to do what is needed and urgently manufacture massive stocks of FFP2 masks; no measures to open resuscitation and intensive care beds in hospitals; no measures to organise systematic screening as is the case in other countries.

On the other hand, this law does allow the government to legislate by decree and undermine the rights and freedoms of workers for an indefinite period, in particular with regard to paid leave, reduction of working time, weekly rest periods or freedom of assembly.

For URIF, this law is unacceptable, now more than ever.

URIF is concerned about the deterioration of civil liberties, with the tightening of freedom of movement, the setting up of curfews and harsher punishments.

URIF is outraged by the remarks made by the executive aimed at making the population bear responsibility for the spread of the virus. Whereas the population scrupulously respects the containment measures, the same is not true of this government, which refuses to implement protection measures for workers or shutting down workplaces which are not indispensable to the life of the Nation during this period.

For URIF, it's this carelessness that is responsible for the spread of the virus.

As such, URIF condemns the lies of the Minister of Health when he stated, on Tuesday 17 March, on France Inter: "we have enough masks today to allow caregivers to be armed against the disease and to treat the sick". This is wrong, and health professionals suffer from this lie every day.

In the absence of a sufficient number of FFP2 masks, the management of Assistance Publique des HĂ´pitaux de Paris (AP-HP) has announced that in 48 hours, the number of healthcare workers affected by COVID-19 has increased from 300 to almost 500. We are witnessing a real state scandal, where medical recommendations are adjusted to fit economic constraints.

URIF reaffirms that the most effective way to avert the impending health disaster is obviously to respect distancing measures; and above all to immediately restore the beds that have been cut over years, to immediately create the positions necessary for the care of all patients (those with Covid-19 and others) and provide all hospital staff with the FFP2 masks essential for their protection.

URIF recalls that it is workers in public services (caregivers, public transport, education, police, social services, prison administration, waste collection...), who are in the front line and must take on their jobs most often without any protection (masks, gloves, gels).

URIF points out that many of these jobs are feminised, while women have the lowest salaries and are the biggest losers in the "reform" of pensions.

In this situation, workers in many sectors have been confronted by the refusal of the state, local authorities and employers to take the necessary protective measures, to the point that they have asserted their right of withdrawal and called for the closure of the workplace or public service when they consider it essential for their safety.

URIF stands with all the trade union organisations that are intervening in very difficult conditions to enforce workers' legal rights and to support workers who have decided to go on strike to defend their rights.

URIF denounces the willingness of employers to try to bring workers to heel by drawing up a "good practice guide" to be implemented in companies, which would be submitted to the approval of trade union organisations.

While some call for a "sacred union" with the government or the employers, we for our part reaffirm that we will not participate in any mechanism that would aim to transform us into an auxiliary responsible for implementing further degradation of the rights and protections of all workers.

After announcing the postponement of the "reform" of unemployment insurance as well as the postponement of the "reform" of pensions, the government has just announced the suspension of the first day's unpaid sick leave.

URIF reiterates that our demand is not the postponement or suspension of all of these counter-reforms, but their outright withdrawal.

URIF wrote to the prefect of the region to find a solution for union reps getting around: to date, we have received no response, which contributes to seriously hampering our ability to act and enforce labour law in workplaces in Ile - de-France.

This situation cannot last any longer: our organizations solemnly appeal to the prefect of the region so that urgent solutions can be found.

Document 2 (28 March)
Call of the National Coordination of General Assemblies and Coordination of Strikes

It's not up to us to pay for their health crisis!
Let us support withdrawal of rights en masse!

Macron is looking after the interests of the rich. It is up to the youth and the workers, with or without jobs, to defend their health and all their rights!

Two weeks after the beginning of lockdown, the priority of the ruling class is still to maintain profits, at all costs, to make maximum profits, without any regard for the consequences on the health and dignity of the vast majority of the population! That is why we give no support to, no trust in the national unity that they are calling for.

Isolation and working from home for some, high-risk work or even death for others and the state of emergency decreed as a fight against Covid-19: it all adds up to a sharpening of everyday exploitation and oppression suffered by workers and young people!

The government is accelerating its attacks on our rights. Financial gifts to bosses, no hiring in hospitals and even undermining our leave, limits on working time, mass dismissals and abuses against precarious workers and in particular temporary staff, subcontractors, and undocumented workers at the same time as flagrant violations of our democratic freedoms: police interventions against trade unionists, violence and police surveillance in working-class neighborhoods…

It is up to us to take charge of defending our health and interests. A war is indeed being waged, especially against the most exploited workers, women, the homeless and ultimately against all of us, but we refuse to be sacrificed for profit!

Let us fight to demand :
• The withdrawal of all plans for social regression, against our pensions, our paid holidays and against working time.
• An emergency plan for public hospitals with 10,000 immediate hires of carers and a corresponding number of non-carers; the provision of sufficient screening tests; as well as the requisition of stock from private companies in the health sector.
• To finance it by taking the equivalent of what was distributed to shareholders in 2019: 60 billion euros.
• Requisition of vacant housing.
• The end of subcontracting and the regularisation of undocumented migrant workers.

We call for the widespread exercise of the right to withdraw from work: the many workers who have used this weapon, in the private sector as in the public sector, are a thousand times right! It is time to spread this salutary form of resistance as far and wide as possible, so as to give the signal for our side to get back on the front foot. Let us combine this right of withdrawal with rent strikes to extend the struggle to as many people as possible.

We also call on all organizations of the labour movement and social movements to come together and call for a cross-industry strike day.

We propose to unions, parties associations, organizations of the social movement a day of action and mobilization on Tuesday, April 7. For those isolating we call for posters in windows and video projections on opposite walls, broadcasts of sound recordings with our demands... and for those at work, there is the right of withdrawal or even strike. Where possible, we are giving ourselves the means to implement this proposal ourselves.

We call on all trade unions, organisations, collectives of struggle, sectoral and inter-sectoral general assemblies to keep meeting, making use of audio-conferencing technology. Containment does not weaken the need to be organised, quite the contrary: we need more links, more information, more solidarity, in a word more organisation! It is more vital now than ever to regroup all the forces which can keep up a common mobilisation against the government. This means bringing together as many sectoral and inter-sectoral general assemblies as possible in the coming week, in order to mandate representatives with a view to discussing joint forms of action.

We are already preparing to take to the streets en masse on the first Saturday after the lifting of the lockdown to protest against this government and its criminal policy.

We call for another national coordination to take place on Saturday, April 4. It is more necessary than ever to bring together all the forces that want to see a common mobilisation of workers and young people!

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