The NUIT DEBOUT Protests Of French Workers Spreading Across Europe Like Wild fire

The NUIT DEBOUT Protests Of French Workers Spreading Across Europe Like Wild fire

By Jamindar Buddiga

26 May, 2016

The NUIT DEBOUT Protests Of French Workers Spreading Across Europe Like Wild Fire

The NUIT DEBOUT (Up all night) protests of French workers spreading across Europe like Wild fire

Workers trade unions, students, women, artists, pensioners and unemployed youth are protesting in hundreds of thousands against President Francois Hollande s proposed changes in labor laws announced on 31 March this year. Nuit Debout or these night-time sit-ins first started in Paris Republican square on the night of March 31st are now a daily ritual that had spread to cities such as Toulouse, Lyon and Nantes and are even spreading fast to other European cities like Madrid, Brussels and Lisbon.

The changes to the labour laws make it easier for employers to hire and fire, increase working hours, cut leave, maternity and other benefits and will also enable employers to bypass workers’ rights on pay, overtime and breaks. Main points of proposed Fench Labor reform:

The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours

Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay

The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly regulated in France (Hire and Fire at will). It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn

Employers are given more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. Workers will be deprived of these benefits which they are enjoying till today. All through the nights thousands who assembled in the Republican square are discussing issues apart from proposed draconian anti-labor reforms, government s neoliberal and anti-people austerity measures, high prices, unemployment, racism and other social and economic issues. Compared to the U.S Occupy movement in the past where the main slogan was we 1 percent are against the 99 percent , Nuit Debout s popular demand is With money you are billionaires but in numbers we are in billions echoes the popular anti-corporate sentiment. These all night sit-ins of hundereds of thousands of youth and workers are giving sleepless nights to heads of other European nations.

Rising unemployment and social unequalities across Europe

In France unemployment rate is hovering over 10 percent and among youth it is as high as 25 percent. Similar is the situation in other European nations. For example in Greece and Spain unemployment rates have reached up to 40 percent.

“The proposed cuts in overtime pay costs me a loss of 1300 to 1700 US $ in an year laments John Basco, a Paris truck driver. Even reduction in working hours and over time do not necessarily helps in the generation of new jobs. It is suspected that corporate houses simply reduce employees, gradually shut the firms and finally shift them overseas where they can earn big profits paying even lesser. Anticipating the future employment scenario not very bright thousands of students are standing shoulder to shoulder with the trade unions showing solidarity to their struggle. On May 15th, huge labor demonstrations were held all over the Europe. In Madrid s Puerta del Sol (Gate of Sun) square celebrating the 5th anniversary of Indignados (outraged) movement and expressing support to Nuit Debout, a huge demonstration was held. It is important to note that Podemos (We Can), a party born only two years back out of mass protests against unemployment and austerity measures performed very well securing 20.7 percent of vote share in the past parliamentary elections. In the forth coming June 2016 Spanish Parliamentary elections Podemos will be fighting in alliance with Communists and other left groups.

Socialists tilting towards Corporates:

French President Hollande is firm on putting up the bill in the parliament. The Mayor of Paris even cautioned the struggling workers not to cross limits or otherwise they may have to face repression. As threatened Paris police baton charged, tear gassed and arrested thousands of protesters recently. In several European countries the social democrats are increasingly turning pro-corporate. The social democrats in Germany are partners in the present conservative coalition government. They are actively supporting NATO s war plans against Russia. Fostering cold war forte first time, Germany is planning to hire more soldiers in the coming seven years and hike the military budget to whooping 3920 mn Euros. They are even ready to support USA s much tarnished Trans Atlantic Trade agreement. A recent survey reveals that nearly 70 percent of Germans are not supporting this trade agreement which may further cut their jobs.

Emergency was proclaimed in France after the February terrorist attacks. On the pretext of forth coming European Football Championships, President Hollande has issued a decree to extend this emergency. People suspect this is aimed at suppressing the popular worker protests currently sizzling France. It is worth remembering that the labor protests in 1968 against the proposed labor laws by then President Charles de Gaul. At the end the French president could not withstand ublic anger and had to resign. Analysts are drawing similarities between 1968 French protests and current NUIT Debout. Also some analysts opine that any protests exhibiting public anger against governments pro corporate and anti austerity measures may not sustain longer unless they embrace class based ideological issues. Otherwise, it can meet the same fate as the earlier Occupy Movement in US, which fizzled out due to lack of ideological clarity in exposing the basic contradictions between capital and work men. Today capitalism around the world is passing through crisis after crisis mainly driven by the speculative nature of capital it created. To escape from this crisis situation and overcome deficits, the governments are imposing various austerity measures such as cuts in wages and working hours, pensions, higher taxes, creation of unemployment, hire & fire, casualization of labor in place of secured employment and other such repressive measures. In a way Capitalism today is digging its own grave and people should utilize this opportunity to defeat their class enemy.

The author is a freelance writer based in Vijayawada, A.P and contributes regular articles to Telugu newspapers on Economic issues and international politics. [email protected]

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