migrant workers’ strike in france

by Antoine Boulangé

6,000 undocumented migrant workers, on strike since 12th October 2009, are bravely continuing their unprecedented struggle against the government in spite of very difficult circumstances.

Their determination is exemplary, faced with a government on the assault – propagating racism and Islamophobia – and a right-wing adding to their list of racist and ‘pro-security’ provocations such as the law against the burqa, the denial of asylum rights to 123 Kurds arrested in Corsica, and racist statements by the ministers for immigration and families. Continue reading “migrant workers’ strike in france”

interview with migrant cleaners’ reps involved in 4,200-strong paris strike movement

The strike by migrant workers in Paris demanding regularisation has now spread to over forty workplaces, and as it heads into its fourth week it now involves some 4,200 strikers. The latest headline-catching turn in the dispute has been the occupation of part of the French capital’s Pompidou arts centre by restaurant staff.


Libération reports that the flash sixth floor restaurant has now been occupied for over a week, with forty people staying day and night “to show that even behind the decor of chic Parisian restaurants, undocumented workers are running things behind the scenes”. Below appears an interview with Seni cleaners about the issues underlying the strike wave in the city. Continue reading “interview with migrant cleaners’ reps involved in 4,200-strong paris strike movement”

france’s cgt union: doing the immigration police’s dirty work

Winter 1980-81 in France saw the French Communist Party (PCF) use its municipal power to attack immigrants in Paris, with the Vitry-sur-Seine council organising bulldozers to stop the construction of a hostel for 300 workers from Mali (therefore leaving them homeless) and leading member Robert Hue, mayor of Montigny-lès-Cormeilles, leading a march against immigrants he had labelled “drug traffickers”. Now again in 2009 the chauvinism of France’s institutional left has reared its ugly head.

At midday on 24th June, migrant workers without papers were dragged out of the Paris Bourse du Travail, where they had sought sanctuary for the previous 14 months, by fifty of the security guards of the Confédération Générale du Travail, France’s largest trade union federation. This operation by the union occurred on the same day as anti-immigration hardliner Brice Hortefeux became the new Interior Minister, as la Promethée report:

The Paris Bourse du Travail is co-managed by the left-wing mayoralty and the trade unions. With the exception of the Solidaires union, all this “happy family”, relieved by the CGT’s initiative, has chosen to remain silent so that people might forget their failure to act to defend workers without papers. These sans papiers were not occupying the Bourse du Travail in the manner of striking workers occupying their workplace, management offices or a public space. They had found refuge there. It would make sense for such union buildings to protect workers without rights being harassed by the capital’s police, given that the latter would even invade churches to get at them. Continue reading “france’s cgt union: doing the immigration police’s dirty work”

solidarity, power, direction: lessons of france’s 19th march strike

Pete Jones reports from Paris on the 19th March strike day

Three hundred and fifty thousand people (according to organisers) marched on Paris on Thursday March 19th to vent their frustration at Nicolas Sarkozy’s mismanagement of and complicity in the current economic malaise. Paris factory workers also used the day to picket their workplaces, hoping to put further pressure on the government following a month of factory closures thanks to industrial action.


The march from République to Nation in the unseasonably warm sunshine was very pleasant but its final relevance is up for debate. In contrast, the day’s demonstrations finished with limited but significant rioting at Place de la Nation. Following a series of seemingly arbitrary arrests around five or six hundred youths confronted police chanting ‘Release our comrades!’ and throwing bottles and metal grills. The police responded by firing tear gas to clear the packed Place, eventually arresting around 300 people of whom just 49 will be charged. Continue reading “solidarity, power, direction: lessons of france’s 19th march strike”