4,000 undocumented migrant workers strike and occupy in paris

by Antoine Boulangé

A new wave of strikes by undocumented migrant workers began on 12th October. The striking workers, greater in number than in April 2008, are determined to win regularisation for all. But to do that, they need solidarity from all workers.

“Colonised yesterday – exploited today  – tomorrow regularised”


That is the slogan of the thousands of undocumented migrant workers who are taking part in the new strike wave, initiated by the unions (CGT, CFDT, SUD, FSU and UNSA) and  associations (Ligue des droits de l’homme, Cimade, RESF [Education Without Borders Network], Femmes Égalité, Autremonde, Droits devant!! etc.) Since 12th October the movement has not stopped growing, from 1,000 on the first day to 3,000 a week later. There has been a qualitative and quantitative leap from the strike wave of April 2008, which involved 600 workers and won 2,000 regularisations.

Over a period of a few days, over 700 “isolated” workers, employed on a temporary basis by unscrupulous employment agencies, invaded the Synergie and Adecco agency offices in Paris. 400 occupied the restaurant bosses’ association, and 380 occupied the offices of the national federation of construction employers. More than 30 workplaces are occupied. On the picket lines which “isolated” workers have organised, there are representatives of every job – butchers, bakers, gardeners, etc. At Vitry-sur-Seine,  migrant workers have occupied a tax office in order to denounce the state’s complicity in pocketing the taxes and social security contributions of undocumented migrant workers without giving them access to the basic rights of citizens. It is without a doubt the biggest movement of precarious workers ever organised in France.

Undocumented migrant workers are starkly bringing to light the inhuman working conditions and exploitation suffered by hundreds of thousands of people. They are highlighting the way capitalism uses the worst forms of casualisation  in order to create maximum profit. They are at the heart of the system, employed by both public and private sector employers, to renovate the Paris métro and the trams, in nineteenth Century working conditions. In the security sector, of 150,000 workers, 15,000 have no papers.

This exemplary movement perfectly illustrates the contradictions of capitalism. In order to maintain profits, this system has for years carried out a policy of outsourcing and casualising the labour force. This logic is pushed to its extreme with undocumented migrant workers. Furthermore they suffer growing state and police repression with the development of Fortress Europe, a racist Europe, which lauds the free circulation of capital yet allows thousands of people to die every year in the Mediterranean. There have been far more deaths at Gibraltar than at the Berlin Wall, which fell 20 years ago, but has been rebuilt across southern Europe. This situation is also sparking rebellion!

The striking workers and their supporters oppose the government’s immigration policy. The unions want Besson to formally put an end to the treatment of migrants on a case by case basis according to the whim of each local prefecture. This is a first step, but the only real solution to put an end to super-exploitation, is papers for all. That is something that migrant workers cannot win by themselves: they need the widest support possible.

The CGT’s strategy has evolved positively since the April 2008 strikes. From the outset, the movement has been larger and the CGT has been favourable to the setting up of support committees, although its leaders do not want to be overtaken by events and lose “control”. Solidarity committees have been set up all over. The occupation of the Paris tramway has therefore been able to continue for a whole week. The organisations and associations of the 19th and 20th arrondissements [districts of Paris] brought tents and duvets to the strikers from day one, and the “Chorba for all” organisation supplied food. Without this, it would have been difficult to resist the pressure of the police and the bosses. At Vigneux-sur-Seine, a collection was organised, and at Boissy-Saint- Léger, the CGT organised a solidarity barbecue. We must spread such initiatives.

The workplace occupations put the bosses and government in a difficult position on the question of immigration. It is possible to win victories and regularisations. This strike wave must make large numbers of people realise that immigration is not a problem. The left must rally around the migrant workers and raise the old slogan, “French workers, migrant workers, same bosses, same struggle!” Migrant workers are showing the way.

One thought on “4,000 undocumented migrant workers strike and occupy in paris

  1. Facsinating. I can’t believe I haven’t head about this before or that such a large scale action has not been reported in the mainstream press.


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