Macron vs unions vs other unions

first_img“We’re calling for major mobilization in September,” Fabrice Angei, a top CGT official, said. “We’re setting out in June to argue, explain and convince people to join us, and this work will continue through the summer … so that starting in September we can see the biggest possible turnout for rallies.”As part of their arsenal, opponents plan street protests, diatribes in parliament, social media activity and an awareness-raising campaign during the Tour de France, union members and Mélenchon aides said.Unions’ moment of truthFor the CGT and its allies, who stake their reputation on fierce defense of the labor code, the upcoming reform is not just another fight with the government.The reform’s central plank, which would give much more prominence to company-level labor talks and downgrade the importance of negotiations at a broader level, is bound to undermine their leverage.Macron’s plans are hardly a secret. They were a major feature of his election campaign, and leaks on the state of secret talks between unions and the government garnered widespread coverage — so much so that the labor ministry launched legal action to crack down on leakers.Jean-Luc Mélenchon (L) meets a CGT unionist as he takes part in a protest against Labour law deregulation on June 27, 2017 at the Invalides esplanade in ParisYet the CGT’s position, and that of other unions, is measured. Philippe Martinez, the CGT’s extravagantly mustachioed boss, is calling on all workers to join a national protest movement on September 12. But he is steering clear of conventional union talk about a “power struggle” between the government and the people. That’s partly because Macron’s government is showing skill at splitting hard-line and reformist unions, and making them keep quiet about talks.Jean-Claude Mailly, head of the FO union, earlier this week hailed the labor negotiations as a “true consultation” and said his group had no plans to join the September 12 protest.“For the time being we’re not taking part in that because we’re still talking,” he told Franceinfo. “If there is a problem, we’ll see at the right time.”Ditto for Laurent Bergé, head of the moderate CFDT union, who said his group would not participate in September’s action. While the CFDT was not “blindly confident” in the government, it would wait to air any disagreements until September, when the content of Macron’s plans becomes known.CGT on thin iceWhich leaves the CGT, its ally Sud, Mélenchon’s France Unbowed movement and a few other forces isolated in their efforts to fight Macron.According to another union boss taking part in national talks, the CGT faces a dilemma: lose face with its base by not putting up a fight, or risk further embarrassment if the movement falls flat. The union already spent considerable capital mobilizing its troops against a labor reform conducted by former President François Hollande, only to see the law forced through parliament despite weeks of protest.We will rally all the populations of our neighborhoods, where people don’t have work, the jobless, the students. We will tell them: you have to join this movement. We must resist — Jean-Luc MélenchonWhat’s more, the CGT is losing ground against the rival CFDT, which in March become the biggest labor group in the private sector in terms of firms represented, having already surpassed the CGT in terms of membership numbers. (The CGT remains No. 1 in the public sector and among small firms.)So Martinez and his allies know they must get their timing right. With students finishing university in July and August a nonstarter for protests, that window of opportunity is in September — after Macron’s plans have been revealed and before they can be signed into law.“It’s a tactical position,” said the union chief, who asked to remain anonymous. “They know that if they start in July, it will deflate.”Mélenchon to the rescueWith the CGT and its allies treading carefully, all eyes are on Mélenchon to be the anti-reform movement’s figurehead. PARIS — France’s powerful trade unions and left-wing political forces are planning to stand up to President Emmanuel Macron as he seeks to overhaul labor rules — just not yet.A trade union leader and staffers at the hard-line CGT union told POLITICO they were keeping their powder dry while Macron and his team hold closed-door talks throughout the summer. But the CGT and its allies, supported by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far-left France Unbowed movement in parliament, are preparing for a show of strength in September that will provide a big domestic test for a president who has so far impressed on the world stage.The looming showdown over reforms, which are likely to include revisions to France’s ironclad long-term work contract, will show if Macron is able to deliver or cave in when faced with union opposition. The veteran leftist, who won more than 19 percent of the vote in the first round of a presidential election and whose party picked up 17 seats in the National Assembly in early June, joined a small rally near parliament Tuesday at which a few hundred protesters waved signs saying “Stop Toutanmacron” and “The Medef [employers’ lobby] will not make the law.”The next morning, Mélenchon was on the radio promising that opposition to Macron would be based in the streets.“We, France Unbowed, will play our role,” he told Europe 1 radio. “We will rally all the populations of our neighborhoods, where people don’t have work, the jobless, the students. We will tell them: you have to join this movement. We must resist.”Tuesday’s gathering was a warm-up for efforts to stoke and maintain public ire through the normally subdued summer months. When September rolls around, rallies will aim to unify groups that opposed Macron during the election, but are currently divided after his landslide in the legislative election.Whether Marine Le Pen’s National Front, another major Macron opponent, will join in remains an unanswered question. Also On POLITICO Macron seizes on Bayrou exit to tighten control over cabinet By Pierre Briançon Macron lacks fire in first ‘state of the union’ à la française By Pierre Briançon Emmanuel Macron secures support in French upper house By Connor Murphylast_img