Saturday, October 20, 2007

Strike Politics



Sous le pavé, la plage: this May '68 slogan springs to mind as I read about the negotiations now under way between the SNCF and the CFDT and the autonomous FGAAC representing agents de conduite about ending the strike against the SNCF. It was inevitable that the government would seek to divide and conquer, and it was clear before the strikes that some unions were prepared to get what they could out of the situation, accepting the reform of the special retirement regimes, at least in the long run, as a fait accompli. One has only to glance at the demands of the FGAAC to see that there are many areas in which compensation can be sought for the retirement concessions: wages, the volume of new hires, and detailed rules for computing retirement benefits, for example.

The street theater of a French strike is often fun, a form of historical pageantry. But these days, the real action is almost always elsewhere. It's not for nothing that the term "Grenelle" has become ubiquitous to describe the discussions around a table that settle the outlines of future policy in some important domain of governance. Because it was after May '68 left the streets and moved indoors on the rue de Grenelle (Hôtel du Châtelet, pictured above) that the real business was transacted. François Chérèque of the CFDT didn't even bother to take to the streets this time. He was already at the negotiating table.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another aspect is that the government is now in possession of a couple of WMD ( real ones..)should the unions choose to go beyond this baroud d'honneur.

One is the still ungoing inquiry about the looting of EDF Comité d'entreprise by the CGT, the other the "black funds" of IUMM ( several millions euros ) used, according to the president of IUMM, for " lubrication of the soicial dialog".

Anonymous said...

Of course I meant "the ongoing investigation".

But "ungoing" may be better after all...

gregory brown said...

I think the reference to "Grenelle" is intended to imply not merely negotiations but negotiations that lead to a sweeping change from the status quo. Hence the promise by Sarkozy during the campaign to conduct a "Grenelle d'environnement" to imply not just negotiations but talks that would lead to an overhaul.