Posts Tagged ‘France’

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I missed this protest by Air France workers when it first happened. But apparently, in the days and weeks since, after five of the protesting workers were arrested, the tide in France has turned in their favor.

Many are baffled by the treatment being meted out to the five, who are all members of the CGT labour union.

They were protesting last week, along with hundreds of others, against imminent job cuts, before two bosses had their shirts ripped off, and were sent running for dear life.

Seven people were hurt in the attack, including a security guard who was knocked unconscious and required hospital treatment.

Although 38% of French people condemn the violence, 54% say they understand the workers’ anger.

According to the BBC,

Only France’s far left, and the CGT union behind the demonstration, came out in strong support of the shirt-rippers, with the union reiterating their “total support” for those arrested in the aftermath of the violence.

But then something interesting happened, says Gil Mihaely, deputy editor at current affairs magazine Causeur.

“The wind changed,” he says. “At first people were shocked by the images, but after the emotion died down, something changed. . .

Unions may also be an occasional lightening rod for a working class that feels increasingly powerless and invisible, but when it comes to violent revolt like that at Air France, says Mr Mihaely, the ruling class also bears some responsibility.

“The story here is not just the unions, it’s the French elites,” he says.

“That’s why we have the same re-enactment of the French Revolution – the aristocracy, the legitimacy of violence, the small humiliating the big.

“There are too many officers who were never soldiers,” he explains.

“When you have to announce bad news, every ounce of credibility and legitimacy counts. The future is less job security; it’s work more and earn less; it’s a smaller pension taken later.

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Today, as they have every year since 1889, workers around the world are celebrating International Workers’ Day.

They marched, for example, in Kuala Lampur and Dhaka (on the left and right above, respectively). And they attempted to march on Istanbul’s Taksim Square (but the government sent police and fired water cannons to stop them).

But workers around the world have also developed a new strategy: to take over the enterprises where they work.

In Turkey [ht: ja], for example, a subset of the 94 workers who were fired in January 2013 from the Kazova Textile factory in Istanbul eventually formed a worker-owned cooperative, Free Kazova. It is now in its third month of operation.

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And, as the Guardian reminds us, many groups of workers in other countries—in Greece, France, Spain, and Argentina—are doing the exact same thing, taking matters into their own hands and showing they can organize and operate enterprises democratically, without the previous bosses and boards of directors.

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Steve Bell 08.01.15

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