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how unions are trying to keep the flame of contestation

The next day of interprofessional mobilization against the pension reform is set for March 31. Until then, the unions (CGT, FO, Solidaires, FSU, youth and student organizations) need to keep the flame alive, while for the tenth day of mobilization, less than 100,000 people (92,000 according to the ‘Interior) demonstrated throughout France, when there were more than 800,000 on December 5, at the start of the movement.

Union leaders say the protest will not end after the government’s government reform plan began Monday in the National Assembly. To blow on the embers, the intersyndicale called Thursday evening to “pursue actions relentlessly, in all forms decided locally“.

Flashmob, throw a dress …

Torch-lit retreats, gathering in front of a parliamentarian’s office, fictitious scenes of crimes … all means are good for occupying the ground. “We are trying to diversify the modes of action. To propose original, more playful, more family-friendly things to attract another less crowded audience“Emphasizes Boris Plazzi, Confederal Secretary of the CGT.

Opponents are also looking to create a buzz. Here and there, since the beginning of the movement against pension reform, opponents have not hesitated to stage themselves and use the sounding board that is social networks. Like these demonstrators in work overalls, scarves with red polka dots and household gloves bearing the image of “Rosie the Riveter“, Who took over the Gare de l’Est in Paris on January 24 to a flashmob, diverting the tube “because of the boys”. A choreography resumed on February 17 by several parliamentarians from La France insoumise and EELV before the National Assembly, including Clémentine Autain, Manon Aubry and Esther Benbassa.

Other media actions: lawyers who throw off their dresses, like those of the Caen bar who removed their dresses during a visit by the Minister of Justice to Caen, on January 8, to protest against the disappearance of their pension plan . A symbolic gesture which has also been taken up by carers with their coats, teachers with their school textbook, or even labor inspectors with their Labor Code. Everyone goes there on their own initiative to be heard: like the lawyers of the Mulhouse bar who put on sale their dress on the site Le Bon Coin.

Wednesday, January 8 in Caen, lawyers gathered in front of the Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet, threw their robes. Nicolas CLAICH / AFP

Are these new forms of mobilization effective? “I doubt that an original action will move the governmentConcedes Yves Veyrier, secretary general of FO. “The idea is to keep the flame alive with enthusiasm and determination.“As for the traditional demonstrations,” they serve to give visibility to our action. But they are now complemented by new forms of action, more original, more fun, more family oriented.“Adds Boris Plazzi of the CGT.

In union culture, if we want to impose it, it is by force of numbers.

Dominique Andolfatto, professor of political science at the University of Burgundy

Because if this social movement has for him the duration (two and a half months), it has never reached the million demonstrators as during the pension reform under Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010. “In union culture, if we want to impose it, it is by force of numbers. We can renew the forms of demonstrations, but as long as they cannot mobilize, these recurrent demonstrations will not change anything“Believes Dominique Andolfatto, professor of political science at the University of Burgundy and specialist in social movements.

If these actions show a latent discontent, the bulk of the mass of employees does not manifest. They are more spectators. The problem with the unions is that they have failed to convince private sector workers to join them.Remember that in France the rate of unionization is very low in companies: out of 25 million employees, public and private combined, only one employee in ten adheres to a union structure.

See also – Pensions: quickly, the 49-3?

“TheWage workers have dispersed a lot, the strike is going less well, it is more complicated to mobilize“Recognizes Yves Veyrier. There are no longer these large collectives of 10,000 workers who could go on strike at once. Today, the fragmentation of wages translates into different forms of mobilization, more fragmented“. Thus forcing unions to show imagination, to reinvent their forms of action.


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