By Satyaki Chakraborty
The strike actions of the French trade unions and the government employees organisations against the hurriedly passed pension bill in Parliament by President Emmanuel Macron, are set to get a new dimension with the election of Ms Sophie Binet as the new general secretary of the leftwing trade union CGT. For the first time in the 128 year old history of this premier TU body, a woman has been elected as the head of the organization and that too at a time when the entire working population of the country are engaged in a battle against the Macron regime.
Ms Binet, a former school supervisor and general secretary of the General Union of Engineers, Executives and Technicians who was responsible for equality issues on the CGT executive, was a surprise compromise candidate for the post.
Outgoing general secretary Philippe Martinez favoured Marie Buisson, while the other candidate, Celine Verzeletti, enjoyed considerable support across the CGT. However, Ms Binet’s name emerged following lengthy overnight discussions after Ms Buisson failed to gather enough votes on the federation’s executive committee.
Addressing the CGT congress in Clermont-Ferrand, Ms Binet said to Mr Martinez: “I would like to tell you that you managed to bring a woman to the head of the CGT for the first time and I know that it was particularly close to your heart.” Laurent Brun, of the CGT-Cheminots, which represents railway workers, was elected as Ms Binet’s deputy.
French Communist Party general secretary Fabien Roussel tweeted: “I extend my congratulations to Sophie Binet and the team around her for her election at the head of CGT. “United and on the offensive, the trade union world is an incomparable force.” Ms Binet takes charge as French unions continue their opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s attack on pension rights.
The CGT, France’s second-largest union federation, has formed a united front with the others in a bid to block the government’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The unions have organised several days of nationwide strikes and massive protests since January, when the unpopular proposal was first put forward by Mr Macron. The unions have received an invitation from Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to discuss the plan .Though the CGT suspended the strike action against the pension bill to bring some normalcy in the people’s lives , the movement is on and there are discussions for another day of strike action on April 6.
The leader of the French Communists, Fabien Roussel, has refused to meet with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne until President Emmanuel Macron, backs down on his plan to raise the retirement age of French workers. Roussel who is also the general secretary of the French Communist Party called on the members of French parliament to march to the Presidential palace to demand the scrapping of the pension reforms. French communist MPs marched to the Presidential Palace on Tuesday demanding the scrapping of the pension reforms law. The party said that the movement will continue till President Macron withdraws his decision on pension reforms.
The French communist leader said already, he had discussed with other parties and there will be a joint movement for the withdrawal of the pension reforms bill which stipulates hiking the age of eligibility for pension from 62 to 64. The PCF leader in fact wants the age to be lowered further to 60.
The intensity of the strike action has baffled both the President Macron’s party and the far right Le Pen. The strike action has seen the consolidation of the left forces and shift of some support base of right to the left. The communist dominated CGT has taken the leadership and they are constantly in discussions with the other participating unions so that the strikers may remain united. The new CGT Secretary General Sohie Binet is known for her great qualities as a negotiator and this should help the CGT in taking forward the course of unity of the trade unions against the anti- people measures of President Macron. (IPA Service)