Angry workers take to the streets in France for a national day of action

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Astralab workers on strike despite threats it could be illegal


Thousands of workers demonstrated in France last Thursday. They participated in a day of national demonstrations called by several union federations and student groups.

The turnout was lower than for similar events before the pandemic.

But there were still a lot of feelings against the government and the bosses.

Youth delegations demanded that their future not be sacrificed to bail out multinational companies.

Workers in industry and energy spoke bitterly about how bosses received billions of euros as unemployment threatened workers.

The turnout for workers at supermarkets like Monoprix, Carrefour and other supermarket chains as well as workers at Biocoop, who have been on strike for wages and terms, was higher than usual.

“They said we were heroes during the pandemic,” said Agnès, a Carrefour employee.

“We continued to work as cashiers, shelf fillers and delivery people to make sure everyone could purchase food and supplies. But now there is no reward, no pay rise.

Disgrace

“In Auchan stores, we even cut 1,500 jobs, it’s a shame.

Bridgestone Tires also announced the closure next year of its Bethune site in northern France, where 863 people work. There have already been demonstrations and there is talk of occupation.

France has seen a sharp increase in coronavirus cases and this is one of the reasons the protests were relatively small. But that didn’t deter everyone.

Professors Alice and Claire were at the Paris demonstration, where 10,000 took part.

“The anger against the government is still there, it has even increased with the Covid-19 crisis, so it is not at all strange that we remain mobilized,” Claire said on the Le Monde website.

“I feel much more in danger in my classroom, in an enclosed space with my students, with all the vagueness of the measures taken by the government, than in an outdoor demonstration,” Alice added.

The fact that the day of action was called as an isolated event and not as part of an overall resistance plan also limited involvement.

There is a widespread trend that union leaders need to move beyond gestures – and there is a lot of resistance to lean on.

Among the strikers for the day were coronavirus test workers at Astralab.

The strikers are demanding a covid bonus of 1,500 euros (£ 1,370) for all and a pay rise. They want their rate to drop from 1.25 per test to 2. They are also asking for more staff.

There are currently at least 2,000 tests per day whose analysis is delayed due to a lack of personnel and sufficient equipment.

The strike continued at Astralab on Friday, despite threats from the government to declare it illegal. With the yellow vest and anti-racist mobilizations, this is the kind of resistance that gives hope.

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