160 000 demonstrators in Paris, 120 000 in Marseille, 100 000 in Toulouse… All in all, more than one million workers, students and pensioners took to the streets on March 31st throughout France to oppose the dismantling of the code du travail, the set of labour laws and regulations.
The youth has taken over its high schools and universities, and is massively going to the streets. The heavy rain did not even start curbing its enthusiasm, nor did PM Manuel Valls’ patronising attitude, when he stated that “they did not quite get the spirit of the draft Labour Law”. Rather the opposite - young people understand very well that – if the law is voted as such – precarious employment will not be a mere phase one has to go through for a while when entering the job market anymore. Precariousness will be the new normal. “We are worth better than this” is the rallying cry of this youth who not only refuses the precarisation of its own future, but also of that of its parents.
Many trade unions and workers of all ages joined the demonstrations organised across the country as well. “The mobilisation is very strong. It already is a success. The government can no longer ignore it, and must withdraw the bill”, as stated by CGT general secretary Philippe Martinez. The only cloud on the horizon is the lack of unity of the trade union movement. Some of its components argue that the draft can still be improved, and therefore did not formally call for their members to go demonstrate. Favouring the method “divide and rule”, the government does everything it can to exacerbate the divisions – but it won’t be enough to put an end to the movement. All have come to realise that there is a window of opportunity to push forwards alternatives to the neoliberal-inspired destruction of social and labour rights: a 32-hour working week, economic democracy at the workplace, new rights for union actions, etc. There is no shortage of alternative proposals.
For now, the government does not give any sign of inflection – “business as usual” seems to be its line of defence. But for how long? The unions and the youth organisations have just called for further mobilisations throughout the country on the 5th and 9th of April. The game is on.
Find here the article by Christian Pilichowski with further information on this possibl "French Spring"