recession and solidarity in france

by Ramate Keita

On 7th April workers at Continental tyres charged with damaging the police prefecture where they demonstrated last year appeared at a tribunal in Compiegne. Many activists and delegations joined them to bring solidarity.

After this protest last March six workers were handed suspended prison sentences and fined

Because of the rail strike, we arrived late at this solidarity demonstration.

The Continental workers explained that they were determined not to pay and that they refused to accept the state and the bosses forcing six of their comrades to pay a fortune on account of the workers’ just struggle.

Members of a number of grassroots workplace struggles were present, having come to meet each other and offer mutual solidarity in their fights against lay-offs. Comrades from various different factories and workplaces gave their views:

Samperit, which makes conveyor belts for mines: the workers explained that they were in the same union federation, for those working with chemicals and rubber, they had the same contract as the tyre workers and were in solidarity with Goodyear and Continental workers.

Philips workers argued that “we must have a common policy against factory closures”. They are facing hard times, with their workplace due to shut down on 16th April.

Goodyear workers in Amiens faced similar problems, facing threats of cuts in personnel.

Municipal employees in the Paris bins service: they are defending their pensions, jobs and salary.

Total workers, whose national strike was abandoned by the CGT union bureaucrats, continue resisting with their occupation of Dunkirk refinery, which has now lasted three months: “defending the Continental workers as we would our own colleagues”.

There were also workers from Sodimatex, who threatened to blow up their factory last week: “Continental workers came to solidarise with us and now here we are for them”.

They spoke of “joining up struggles”, and not of a general strike: this, because they know that the bureaucrats of the union federations will prevent any unity in action.

We shouted slogans outside the tribunal. As might have been expected, we were attacked by police with irritant gas in aerosol cans, like mosquitoes!

Then finally the accused comrades emerged. The prefecture had demanded 53,000 euros but only got 1,200. They did not dare force the workers to pay more because they realised their determination and the solidarity they could count on. They read out solidarity messages from as far away as Argentina. They have also received contributions from unions in various countries to pay the fine.