(en) FRANCE / unemployed actions and occupations

Christophe (aguiton@sud.unions.eu.org)
Wed, 31 Dec 1997 08:51:04 +0100

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marches97-info.eng ------------------

FRANCE / Pressure on the government stepped up on all fronts by the jobless and the socially excluded.

Through out December, actions have escalated by the jobless and the socially excluded in France. This has been due to a combination of mobilisations.

Firstly, a series of occupations of job centres (ASSEDICs). This official institution is run jointly by the unions/companies, controls unemployment benefits system. These occupations are made to support demands for a Christmas bonus. Before the suppression of the Fonds Sociaux, an annual distribution was made via job centres of these funds and given directly to the jobless according to their debts. The demand that this tradition be continued started in Marseille, (where the unemployment rate is very high with extensive poverty in the 2nd largest French city). Marseille was once a major port on the Mediterranean. The GCT Committee of the unemployed are a well organised group and started campaigning for their annual Christmas bonus in November. Action then spread to other towns and cities, groups of unemployed combined forces (often AC!, MNCP, and APEIS). The result was demonstrations and occupations throughout France. So far Marseille is still occupying 8 job centres for the last 18 days and Arras 1(north of France). Paris has made many brave attempts but has been foiled by systematic closing of job centres regardless of the people inside or sending in the CRS (riot police) within an hour.=20

Secondly, the organisation of a week of action based on the theme of "Urgent Social Needs" between December 15 and 21. This involved all types of associations and trade unions. Associations such as AC! MNCP, APEIS, DAL and CDSL. The last two being associations defending the right to housing and the badly housed. Droits Devants, (DD!!) fights against all forms of exclusion and CADAC, a militant feminist organisation. The trade unions involved were FSU (education), CGT Finance, the Group of 10, (including SNUI and SUD groups), and the "Tous Ensemble" wing of the CFDT.=20 The overall theme was the fight against social inequalities, particularly pertinent at the onset of winter.=20 The week was split up into various themes : -Tuesday, December 16, was the day chosen when the CNPF (bosses' union), elected their new president, known for his fierce opposition to any reduction of the working week - the Baron of Seilli=E8re, of the iron works= of Wendel. Two action were organised, one in Lorraine at the Wendel family chateau, the other at the headquarters of the CGIP company headed by the Baron of Seilli=E8re. -Wednesday, December 17.=20 Morning. Paris blockage of an ASSEDIC in solidarity with Marseille 's occupations, Arras, and other provinical towns. Afternoon at 14h. Over 200 militants invaded the Louvre Museum in a joint agreement with the CGT/SUD/CFDT. This action preceded the official opening of the Egyptien wing by Chirac, and aim to focus on the Louvre's work policy; problems of contract labour as a form of job unstability and for a reduction of the working week with real new jobs. Taking part in this action were the jobless, wage earners and those in unstable employment. A meeting was negociated leading to an interview the director of the Minister of Culture cabinet. This made it possible to present propositions for increase stability in employment.=20 -Thursday, December 18, a day of action on the entier low benefits sector (minimas sociaux): starting with the demand for a 3 000 FF Christmas bonus, with an immediate increase of 1 500 FF per month for all those on living on low benefits, and the right to financial support from the government for all 18 to 25 year olds. At 14h, a demonstration in front of the Family Benefits Office (CAF), followed by another demonstration with the CGT, in front of the Ministry of Labour. - Friday, December 19, afternoon, associations and trade unions accompanied the CDSL (Committee for the homeless, with emphasis on the youth homeless). All were invited by the communist Minister for Youth and Sport to the top floor for coffee and cakes. Very welcomed after marching in the streets of Paris in a glacial wind. The discussion concerned everyday problems of 18/25 group ( lack of housing, training and income) with propositions for financing youth projects and the announcement of new job creation schemes in the field of sport aimed at young people without any academic qualifications and to encourage sports in deprived areas. - Saturday, December 20, return to the Louvre, to open a public forum in the Carroussel auditorium kindly made available to associations and unions during the course of negociations with the Louvre authorities (17/12). At the forum were around 350 people, the aim being to make a preliminary summing up of the week's actions and to decide on a manifesto covering three concrete initiatives : * a call for action to demand a Christmas bonus of 3 000 FF and an increase in all low benefits; * a document calling for a reduction of the working week=20 ( to coincide with a 35 hour week bill due to be presented in the January parliamentary session), this appeal is to be drafted and signed before January 10, by hundreds of activists from associations and unions. * a rally against exclusion has been fixed for March 29, just before the parliamentary debat on the Exclusion Bill. -Sunday, December 20, joint action with DAL ( right to housing), to take possession of two buildings in Paris for those families badly housed.

All the above mentioned actions, especially the occupations of the ASSEDICs have been closely followed by the media (all channels televised news programmes has repeatedly filmed and commented on these events; the two leading national dailies, from the 19/12/97 onwards in particular, Le Monde and Lib=E9ration have made them front page news and given them full page spread with background information. Occupation of ASSEDICs in the South of France now enters into its third week. The Christmas season has certainly added to the dramatic and emotional appeal of the jobless' actions. - Wednesday, December 24, a joint demonstration held in front of UNEDIC by CGT confederation and unemployment associations were organised with the support other unions such as SUD, FSU "Tous Ensemble" CFDT and Droits Devant (DD!!); immediately afterwards a group discretely made its way to a job centre and managed to hold out for a few hours against the CRS. The local commissariat was in a very nervous state, which increased tension. A leading member of the MNCP, thought it prudent to telephone the Interior Minister to ask why the CRS were blocking the job centre entrance, even to the personnel working in the centre, and why was this apopletic commissariat being verbally agressive to a small unemployed group peacefully occupying the centre? The effective of this telephone call was to transform the commissariat into a smiling apologetic man overwhelmed by so many demonstrations taking place in his arrondissement. Eviction was carried out shortly afterwards on the order of whom? Prefecture or UNEDIC? This event was well covered by Lib=E9ration with an excellant photo on its front page, dated 25/12.

Government reactions to this groundswell of actions are : -Mme Martine Aubry, Employment Minister, has asked pr=E9fets through out France, to set up joint meeting with all local departmental social institutions in order to examine "the most needy cases", without conceding the principle of a Christmas bonus for all; -the Transport Minister has accepted a meeting with unemployment associations in order to discuss free transport or a system of help towards transport costs for the jobless; - Lionel Jospin has given his backing to these initiatives, as well as the introduction of new measures for certain categories of middle-aged unemployed and for social housing.

These new governement policies are an encouraging sign, because they show that our demands have been taken notice of, yet they are remain insufficient in view of the wide range of urgent social needs.=0BConsequently,= associations and trade unions will redouble their efforts in the coming days. A day of action is planned for January 14, 1998.=20

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