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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les violences dont sont victimes les salariés

by Olivier Mayer

Employees are victims of violence as well.

Translated Monday 27 April 2009, by Laure Tallot

The political right wing and employers are trying to set public opinion against the so-called "detention" of executives and bosses. The French people decline to follow suit.

“Almost every day now there is a new occurrence of bosses or executives being detained by angry employees…” Last Friday morning (April 10), France Info thus began its news bulletin about the three Faurecia executives held until 11 p.m. the day before by exasperated employees. On that very same day Le Figaro’s leader was up in arms about “the disturbing drift of the protest movements” and “the dangerous tendency of social conflicts to get out of hand”. Then the President of the Republic invoked “the Rule of Law”. “Such furore is quite surprising” François Chérèque remarked, “Hardly a wavelet” Bernard Thibault added: trade-union leaders rightly put the events into perpective; but the right wing and employers keep on brandishing the spectre of chaos.

When Bernard Thibault, after observing that these events were “union actions that could in no way be likened to hostage-taking”, claims that “he understands them and will defend them as long as employers do not suffer any bodily harm”, there is an outcry. According to Frederic Lefebvre, the UMP spokesman, Bernard Thibault gives “a poor image of trade-unions.” And he contributes “to tarnish the image of France in the world”, prompting “multinationals to decide to close sites in France instead of somewhere else.” Nothing less! Even more burlesque, Jean-François Roubaud, the president of the CGPME, the union of owners/managers of small and medium-sized businesses, invites the company bosses “to refuse to start negotiating with a gun held to their heads” and asks the government to “start the legal proceedings that are called for by such lawless behaviour”. More prudently, the MEDEF [1], through Benoît-Roger Vasselin’s voice, recommends “not adding fuel to the fire by not focusing on this particular point”.

Surveys show that French public opinion understands the need for discontent to have visible manifestations: witness the leader written by the general secretary of the CFTC Philippe Louis, published in the Confederation paper “In the eyes of the CFTC nothing can justify assaulting people and destroying property. (…) However one can understand that employees, who have been victims of violence for almost thirty years, turn this very same violence against those who, in their opinion, are responsible for it ”. He wonders why those who protest today “were almost never heard condemning other types of violence such as unemployment, erosion in purchasing power and deterioration of working conditions and living standards.” He reminds us that “at the end of 2008 two incumbent ministers went to support bosses who were opening their shops on Sundays in total breach of the law”. He also denounces those who said nothing “against the violence of reneging on an agreement, as in Continental at Clairoix”.

translator’s note:

[1The MEDEF is the French equivalent of the CBI.

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