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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Des foules immenses malgré les manoeuvres

by By Paule Masson

Immense Crowds Demonstrate against the CPE, despite Government Maneuvers

Translated by Henry Crapo

Translated Friday 7 April 2006, by Henry Crapo

Job insecurity: More numerous even than the 3 million who protested last week, demonstrators join the unions in demanding the withdrawal of the CPE (first-job contract). Efforts by the Right to disarm the movement have failed.

Tuesday 4 April in the street, Wednesday 5 April in the halls of the Senate, a single call to action: "Withdrawal of the first-job contract (CPE)". The UMP has begun drafting of the new law so desired by Jacques Chirac, in order to deflate the movement opposing the new labour contracts that mean an end to job security, a movement that has swept the country these last two months. Drafting a new law should be simple indeed. It can consist of three words: "Abrogate the CPE". Any other wording will simply reinforce the mobilization. This conviction, shared by the 12 organizations of workers, university and high-school students opposing the CPE, is showing no signs of wavering. Yesterday, Bruno Julliard, president of the UNEF (students’ union) said with irony: "(Prime Minister) de Villepin managed an excellent mobilization last 28 March. It is Chirac who has assured the success of the demonstration today!"

Demonstrators were at least as many, if not more: At the close of this 5th day of national mobilization, the determination to obtain a complete withdrawal of the CPE remains intact. Once again, efforts to disarm the movement, first by Jacques Chirac, then by Nicolas Sarkozy, have failed. Bernard Thibault, general secretary of the CGT, celebrated the fact that "there is new blood in the movement", speaking of work stoppages in factories new to the movement, notably in the private sector. Same observation from the CFDT: Françoise Chérèque comes to the conclusion that "the government and its politicians are beginning to lose their grip; we must hold on to the end".

The government’s rigidity is getting people angry

In most of the larger cities, demonstrations were larger than those of last Tuesday. Several union organizations underline the fact that, over and above the demand for the withdrawal of this universally contested text, the authoritarian posturing of the government has given added force to the mobilization. "Many workers simply no longer accept being treated with such disdain", maintains Maryse Dumas, confederation secretary of the CGT. Jacky Dintinger, general secretary of the CFTC agrees: "The rigidity of the government is getting people really angry."

And the impact goes beyond France, to judge by the impressive number of offers of support coming from movements in other countries. Just as during the campaign for the referendum on the project for a European Constitution, all eyes are turned toward France. Bruno Julliard states that there have been at least 20 student organizations that have notified the UNEF of their solidarity with the movement. Karl Stoeckel, president of the UNL, speaks of words of encouragement received from high-school students in Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands. Both the CGT and FO report having received dozens of emails, faxes, and letters of support. Present at the front of the demonstration in Paris, John Monks, general secretary of the European Confederation of Unions, insists: "This is not just a French problem. There exists a similar new law in Greece, and we know that Germany and the Netherlands are interested in Villepin’s plan, which represents a neo-liberal approach to the labor market." And he adds: "All Europe is behind the French demonstrations".

No discussion without abrogation of the law.

The noose continues to tighten around the neck of the government, which, since Jacques Chirac’s intervention, is in a state of total confusion. Nicolas Sarkozy has taken to the telephone, contacting certain labor organizations, but not all. "The president of the UMP hasn’t been able to find my number," says Annick Coupé, spokesperson for the union Solidaires. "We’re getting used to being ignored", grumbles, for his part, Karl Stoeckel. After speaking with the confederations and with the UNEF this weekend, Sarkozy deigned to call the FSU on Monday. Gérard Aschieri reports: "He told me he wanted to discuss, no subjects taboo. I asked him what that meant. He replied ’we discuss, with no taboos’. We, we say ’abrogate the law, then we’ll discuss’ ".

Jacques Voisin, president of the CFTC, also retells his conversation with Bernard Accoyer: "He told me that ’anything goes for the new law’. I asked him ’Even to abrogate the CPE?’, and he replied ’Anything is possible’. But no discussion is possible without the withdrawal of the CPE". The president of the governing UMP group in the National Assembly, at any rate, was charged with officially inviting the unions to the discussion table, beginning tomorrow in the Senate, seeing each union separately. In his letter, he pledged to engage in dialogue "without prejudice", in the process rejecting the framework set out by the president of the Republic, who clearly called for modifications to the CPE. The unions will participate in these discussions, but just in order to underline once more that the law must be abrogated. The 12 inter-union groups are meeting this morning (Wednesday 5 April)) to decide what to do next. "And there will be a follow-up", they emphasize, in unison.

3,1 million demonstrators in the streets of France

Albi 18,000; Alençon 4,000; Angers 17,000; Arles 5,000; Avignon 30,000; Bar-le-Duc 900; Bayonne 13,000; Besançon 10,000; Blois 10,000; B0rdeaux 120,000; Boulogne-sur-Mer 7,000; Bourges 7,000; Brest 30,000; Caen 40,000; Calais 7,000; Chalons-en-Champagne 1,100; Charlesville-Mézières 4,000; Chateauroux 5,500; Châtellerault 4,000; Cherbourg 12,000; Clermont-Ferrand 50,000; Douai 3,500; Épernay 1,000; Épinal 6,000; Évreux 8,000; Foix 8,000; Grfenoble 60,000; Guingamp 700; Lannion 8,000; Le Havre 25,000; Le Mans 35,000; Lille 45,000; Limoges 31,000; Lorient 28,000; Lyon 45,000; Marseille 250,000; Metz 8,000; Montauban 8,000; Montpellier 45,000; Mulhouse 4,000; Nancy 52,000; Niort 10,000; Orléans 20,000; Paris 700,000; Pau 40,000; Perpignan 20,000; Poitiers 25,000; Quimper 15,000; Reins 16,000; Rennes 50,000; Roanne 30,000; Rouen 40,000; Saint-Brieuc 30,000; Saint-Denis de la Réunion 6,000; Saint-Dié 1,000; Saint-Étienne 40,000; Saint-Malo 8,000; Saint-Pierre de la Réunion 6,000; Strasbourg 20,000; Toulouse 90,000; Tours 20,000; Vannes 11,000; Verdun 900;

published in l’Humanité on 5 April 2006

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