Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"Il faut savoir terminer une grève."

The words are attributed to Maurice Thorez at the time of the Popular Front, but they remain as pertinent as ever. The CGT, having played hardball with the government in a complicated three-bank billiard strategy, now has to persuade the workers that they have in fact won, at least against the SNCF, where the government is the major stockholder. The problem is that some of the strikers thought they were striking against the El Khomri Law. They now have to be persuaded that the sweeteners offered to les cheminots are enough to justify a cave-in on labor code reform.

The problem with playing hardball is that wild pitches tend to hurt people. A lot of people have been hurt in this episode. Start with M. Pepy, the head of the SNCF. At least that's his job title. It turns out that the SNCF is actually run by the president of the Republic, who excluded M. Pepy from the negotiations with the unions. Never mind that poor Pepy had been working to reform the SNCF for several years. More important things are at stake. The El Khomri Law must pass or François Hollande's reelection chances will be even worse than they already are. So the government was willing to cave (once again) to railway workers, who have the power to keep other workers from getting to their jobs and soccer fans from getting to the stadiums for the Euro championship. So Hollande took over and surrendered on one front in the hope of prevailing on another. Philippe Martinez, having bared his teeth in a snarl, must now recompose his face in a smile. This is France, where the law can be "reformed" as long as the requisite "exceptions" are granted to the people with the clout. This may be the country that invented l'intérêt général, but what is le général, after all, if not an accumulation of particuliers?

Hollande and Martinez: two guys qui savent bien terminer une grève.

5 comments:

bernard said...

"Il faut savoir terminer une grève dès que la satisfaction a été obtenue. Il faut même savoir consentir au compromis si toutes les revendications n’ont pas encore été acceptées mais que l’on a obtenu la victoire sur les plus essentielles revendications" is the untruncated quote...

christopher delogu said...

news from one "particulier": my aller-retour tlse-lyon was able to happen last week, very crowded since other trains were cancelled and since, as everyone knows who has any experience with the SNCF, the ticket controllers stay quietly in their little compartments in the first class area and don't check anyone's tickets for the whole trajet. therefore fraud is even more common than it is on normal days -- it's illegal in france to kick a fraudster off the train at the next station after the fraud is discovered -- unlike in germany, and other places i presume. so strike days are also days when lots of people find a reason to go visit their sister or friend or do whatever. this week my bid to cycle a bit in the pyrenees was foiled again, though not because there was not transportation, but the SNCF website did not specify that it was "autocar" and not train service... can't put a bike in an autocar! so demi-tour back home once again. no doubt this strike will end today, because tomorrow the Euro starts and at stake is a lot of money and france's bid to host future olympic game$ etc. so the country will have survived another spring "in the street" and the 1 in 3 people who take anti-depressants in this country can simply walk to their pharmacies, there are so many to choose from, to refill their prescriptions and slouch into the usual summer slowdown of july and august. quel pays, indeed.

Mitch Guthman said...

I guess that I'm as confused as many of the strikers because I, too, believed the strikes were part and parcel of the other mobilizations against the El Khomri Law. Every one of the strikers or other SNCF workers interviewed seems to have been laboring under a similar misconception.

Evidently, the CGT has been too clever by half and now will have a difficult time explaining why it really was striking to get something the majority of members and other supporters weren't aware that they were striking to get, while simultaneously persuading them that not receiving what they thought they were striking to get is somehow a famous victory.

bert said...

Valls, Martinez, Pepe the train boss.
Spaniards everywhere all of a sudden. Something's up.

MCG said...

Bert, when you count Spaniards, don't forget Anne Hidalgo, refugee-accommodating, skyscraper-loving, mayor of Paris.