France: no to casualisation!

Hundreds of thousands of young people have been demonstrating and occupying universities and sixth-forms throughout France in protest at a new law passed on 9 March which significantly reduces employment rights for those under the age of 26.

The government forced the Law for Equality of Opportunities through parliament using a special article in the French constitution to bypass the National Assembly and thus suppress any debate. The new law creates a ‘First Employment Contract’ (CPE) which will allow an employer to fire an employee under the age of 26 during the first two years of employment without having to give any reason. The law has been billed as a solution to high youth unemployment, which at over 20% (and 50% in the poor suburbs) is twice the national average. The government says that rigid labour laws are a disincentive for employers to hire young people as they cannot afford the risk in the new economic climate. Increased flexibility will increase employment. In other words, workers’ rights are harming profits. This new First Employment Contract is part of a broader ruling class strategy of stripping workers’ rights. It follows an almost identical contract established in August 2005 that can be used by small businesses. In 1994 the Balladur government tried to impose the CIP or ‘Beginning Work Contract’ which lowered the minimum wage for those aged 25 and under in order to make them more employable. On that occasion mass action forced the government to repeal the law.

Resistance to this casualisation of labour has mushroomed, taking the form of demonstrations, strikes and occupations as well as direct action against the state. As FRFI went to press, 21 universities were being occupied and 46 more disrupted. The movement has also spread to the secondary schools, with 814 lycées participating in some sort of strike action. In some schools and universities teachers have joined the students in occupying the buildings.

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Resistance to racist repression in France

An inspirational new anti-racist movement is developing in France, taking on both the state and the opportunist trade unions and aid organisations. France has introduced four new anti-immigrant laws since 2004, leading to increased repression of migrant workers. In response, hunger strikes, demonstrations, workplace occupations and strikes accelerated with thousands marching to demand the legalisation of some 400,000 sans-papiers (undocumented migrants). CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

Since 2 May 2008 the Bourse du Travail, building of the Confederation General du Travail (CGT) trade union federation, in Paris, has been occupied by around 800 men, women and children from the Coordination des sans-papiers 75 (CSP75), in direct challenge to the CGT’s attempts to stifle and control the movement. The CGT is closely allied with the social democratic French Communist Party. CSP75 is an umbrella group for all the self-organised sans-papiers collectives in the Paris region (the postcode for Paris is 75).

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Massive protests in France / FRFI 207 Feb / Mar 2009

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

The crisis of international capitalism is provoking mass protests across Europe from Iceland to Greece and Latvia to France. On 29 January at least 2.5 million people protested at 200 marches and rallies in towns and cities across France against the French government, its attacks on the public sector and working conditions and against rising unemployment. The protests were called by eight trade union groups and accompanied by a 24-hour nationwide strike; rail and bus services, airports, schools and postal services were closed down. The Paris demonstration was even joined by stock exchange workers. Univers­ity and high school occupations are continuing.

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