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Are France’s strikers heading for a showdown with the government?
10/18/2010, 11:39 PM
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: , , , , ,

From France 24:

“Monday’s French papers are all about the ongoing strike movement; they’re asking if there’s a division opening up between the unions’ grassroots and their base support, what alternative the Socialist Party is offering to the government’s widely hated reform plan, and what will happen after this week’s key vote?

The French papers today are of course dominated by the ongoing strikes and preparations for another major demonstration tomorrow.

Liberation says it’s a risky week both for the govt and the unions- they say a gap is opening up between the union leadership and their popular base- union leaders have accepted that pension reform is necessary and they aren’t ordering the current strikes from the top- instead many of the protests in the last week- the teenagers who blockaded their schools and the oil workers blocking refineries- have been spontaneous and organized from the bottom up.

The paper says we can expect more of this sort of spontaneous protest during this decisive week and the movement may be taking on a more and more radical character which is difficult for the union leadership to control.
The paper’s editorial says this grassroots determination has changed the situation completely- and made it much more potentially explosive.

They say the split emerging between union elites and the people means this week will be a painful one for union leaders.

Communist paper l’Humanité is in much more fighting spirit.

The paper says there’s a consensus among French people of almost all political persuasions that the strikers are right- they say the movement on the streets is continuing to build and build, with 3 million taking to the streets to protest on Saturday- that figure is rather lower in the more right wing papers of course.

But l’Humanité says that war of numbers no longer matters- because the momentum is on the protesters side and the government will have to back down.

Free newspaper Metro says on its front page that it’s playing the fuel shortage card that has really changed things for unions- they highlight that lorry drivers have now joined the movement and are threatening to blockade refineries and fuel shortages- which could of course cause a national shortage and that really worries the government.

The fuel shortage has the regional press worried as well- Les Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace, a local paper in the east of France, says petrol stations across their region are running out of stock.

The key thing about a petrol shortage is that although strikes are common in France, they often only affect people in big cities- because they depend on public transport- but nationwide fuel shortages mean the strikes hit hard across the country.

Right wing newspaper Le Figaro, as you might expect, doesn’t portray the unions as quite that strong- their front page says splits are opening up between the different unions- there are half a dozen major unions involved in this protest movement and the paper points out some of them are taking a much tougher line than others.

They say that once the reform has been voted through the Senate- which is due to happen on Friday- that will lead the protests into a tough new phase for unions because the leadership will go along with that decision whereas more radical elements will want to keep protesting- unlike the other papers le Figaro concludes that after the vote the protest will probably peter out.

The paper has also investigated the ongoing strikes at the port of Marseille- dockers there have been on strike for nearly a month- the paper says years of industrial unrest at the port have led it to fall from being Europe’s second biggest commercial port to the fourth biggest.

Now, le Figaro claims, the port has lost 30 million euros worth of business in the last three weeks due to stoppages- and three jobs are being lost every day.”

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