FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

France: Amnesty for Bosses, None for Workers

by TOM GILL

France’s socialist government stands accused of ditching yet another pledge after it rejected this week a campaign for an amnesty of workers convicted for offences during strikes and other protest actions.

The bill, which excludes those found guilty of physical violence, is ‘an act of justice towards all employees and trade unionists struggling to keep their jobs at a time when unemployment is at a record high’ argues Pierre Laurent, national secretary of the French Communist Party, whose Left Front alliance with the Left Party and other radicals drafted and tabled the legislation.

The Left Party has condemned the announcement by Alain Vidalies, minister for parliamentary relations, on French radio Wednesday that the government would not support the bill, which came just days after the adoption of changes that limit the time employees have to appeal dismissals under lay-offs concerning more than 10 workers, part of labour ‘reform’ package that  Laurent describes as one more ‘amnesty’ for bosses.

Despite government promises to fight to protect employment, mass lay-offs and factory closures are accelerating, with those out of work hitting a record 3.2 million, putting trade unionists and citizens in the frontline of defending jobs.

The Petroplus oil refinery, in Normandy, is the latest casualty of France’s industrial collapse. It faces closure with the loss of 470 jobs, and follows the news of the shut-down of the Peugeot-Citroen car plant in Aulnay-sous-Bois north east of Paris, the Goodyear tyre factory in Amiens and the Arcelor-Mittal blast furnaces at Florange. US-based IT company IBM is another major employer whose job destroying plans have hit the headlines in recent days, even as it gears up to hand out huge dividends to shareholders.

Socialist President Francois Hollande had pledged to reverse the austerity measures, pursued by his predecessor NIcolas Sarkozy, in France and at a European level, that are killing French jobs, driving people into poverty, decimating communities, and meanwhile ruining the public finances. But so far, the story has been punishing cuts at home and a complete failure to challenge German Chancellor Angela Merkel abroad. Hollande’s defence of le peuple  has all been talk.

The popular sense of injustice, that the law and politicians from France’s two main parties are geared to serving the interests of the very rich and corporations, has increased in the wake of revelations that a French minister who was supposed to be cracking down tax dodging had hid for years disgustingly large sums in an illegal offshore bank account while the former Socialist Party treasurer and head of Hollande’s Presidential campaign fund had invested in two Cayman Islands offshore companies.

Then came the expose by US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, where France’s BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole were fingered, among a number of major banks around the globe, together with various ‘high net worth individuals’, for their role in hiding billions from the tax man in offshore tax havens.

Rallying behind the government’s position against the amnesty bill is the right-wing opposition UMP party of Sarkozy, who is under investigation over allegations he took illegal donations to run his 2007 election campaign from France’s richest woman Liliane Bettencourt, and which as a political movement is the most unhealthily close to big business.

Earlier this month, the socialist-controlled Senate passed the draft ‘social amnesty’ law, which relates to convictions since 2007, and the bill is set to return to the lower house in May. Jean-Vincent Placé, leader of the Greens (EELV) in the Senate, has called for a rebellion in the House of Deputies in May, recalling that not only had socialists senators backed the bill but that the Socialist leadership had a standing commitment to support it.

The Greens are close allies of Hollande’s socialist administration while the Left Front also provides parliamentary support for some socialist legislation, after having swung behind Hollande in the second round run-off against Sarkozy in the Presidential elections last Spring.

The Left Front’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who received an impressive degree of support his bid for the Elysee Palace, has accused Hollande of ‘duplicity,’ saying the socialist leader had promised, ‘eye to eye’ that he would pass the bill.

There has been much hostility to the bill, described by news agency AFP, as ‘destructive’, with the focus on news reports of workers’ and union activists kidnapping bosses, occupying of factories or public buildings, damaging property and the recent clashes between Goodyear workers and police.

But far from inflaming social tensions, as the right-wing UMP party suggests, for Éric Aubin, a member of the national executive of the CGT union, the bill would help ‘calm’ the social climate by tackling ‘disproportionate’ punishment of union activists.

For example, in a campaign to stop a labour exchange closing, a militant was fined simply for putting up a poster on a public building; one activist earned a two months’ suspended prison sentence, and was banned from standing for office for five years, all for throwing an egg.

Trade unionists are cast in the mainstream media as ‘thugs who will set fire to anything’, says Aubin. ‘Our activists are placed on the same level as thugs who kill – this is crazy!’

‘To those who say that violence is not legitimate in the social struggle, I say  look first at the violence deployed by employers. Job cuts, plant closures … Often the first victims are unions and employees. And yet they try to sell the idea that we are the violent ones, the vandals, which is absolutely not the case. The amnesty law would restore some justice. ”

The bill is in line with a tradition that sees each new French President  grant amnesties, says the Left Front.

The draft law argues that ‘collective action’ is an ‘inherent right in all democracies’. It says ‘citizens who defend their school, their work tools or their pensions are neither criminals not delinquents.’  The legislation would bring these people justice in line with Article 8 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, according to which: ‘The Law must prescribe only the punishments that are strictly and evidently necessary’.

Tom Gill blogs at www.revolting-europe.com

Tom Gill edits Revolting Europe.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail