People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 14, 2006
French Working Class To Strengthen
48th Congress of General Confederation of Trade Unions (CGT), France was held in
Lille (Northern France) from April 24 to April 28, 2006. Over one thousand
delegates attended the congress which was held in Lille Grand Palace. About 40
delegates from fraternal trade union organisations in 20 countries participated
in the congress. I attended the congress on behalf of the Centre of Indian Trade
congress was overshadowed by the recent historic struggle of the students and
the workers in France who jointly fought with firm determination against the
anti-employment measures taken by the French government. These measures would
seriously affect the job security of young workers. Though the struggle was
initiated by the students, workers joined it in millions all over the country
completely paralysing the economy. The CGT played a significant role in the
struggle, which lasted for over two weeks, and which forced the French
government to withdraw lock stock and barrel its retrograde proposal. The
struggle openly challenged the globalisation policies of the French government
and created a fervent anti-globalisation atmosphere in France.
massive verdict given by the people of France last year in a nationwide
referendum rejecting the European Constitution had a powerful impact on the
developments in Europe. The working class of France played a notable role in the
referendum to oppose the retrograde Constitution.
growing militancy of the French working class had a clear reflection on the
deliberations of the 48th congress of the CGT. The speeches of delegates during
the congress narrated the valuable experience of the activists all over France
in mobilising the working class on both the issues. The repeated applause of the
delegates appreciated the remarkable achievement of the rank and file CGT
activists who brought glory to these struggles.
Thibault, general secretary of CGT in his presentation of the report proudly
mentioned the struggles waged by the French workers since the 47th congress and
the leading role played by the CGT in these struggles.
report of the general secretary strongly criticised the policies of the
capitalist class all over the world advocating liberalisation, privatisation and
globalisation. As a result of these policies unemployment has grown all over the
world while social security measures are under severe attack. The curtailment of
trade union rights and marginalisation of the trade union movement has become a
opposed the policies of French capitalists who have intensified attacks on the
livelihood of the French workers. He congratulated the CGT cadres for
effectively resisting these attacks and giving a fitting reply to the capitalist
CGT general secretary expressed solidarity with the struggles of the working
class all over the world against the policies of the World Bank and the IMF and
called for strengthening of the international trade union movement.
condemned the US attack on Iraq and demanded withdrawal of US troops from that
country. He also congratulated the people of Nepal for their valiant struggle
against autocratic monarch. He demanded restoration of democracy and release of
all political prisoners in Nepal. The CGT also supported the struggle of the
people of Palestine for their rightful homeland.
expressed concern at the growing part time, low-paid employment and rampant
system of short-term contracts, which is resulting in the drastic reduction of
the quality of jobs. He criticised the concept of labour flexibility, which in
practice, is only destroying regular employment. “Casualisation and job
insecurity cannot result in sustained development of economy”, he asserted.
general secretary criticised the recent trend of international cartels taking
over pension funds, resulting in a significant decline in pensionary benefits.
He advocated CGT proposals for improvement in financing by employers and the
government of the pensionary funds so as to ensure adequate restoration of
mentioned about a survey conducted by CGT about the reaction of members towards
the unions affiliated to CGT. It was found that the older workers were satisfied
but the younger workers were not happy about the functioning of the unions. He
laid special attention to the problem of young workers in the organisation.
women workers he noted that 44 per cent of employment in France consisted of
women while the CGT membership of women is only 35 per cent. The women
delegation to the congress was 27 per cent, which needs to be increased.
concluding Thibault gave special attention to strengthening of TU democracy and
more involvement of workers in union activities. He advocated that no union
should sign an agreement with the employers unless it is ratified by a majority
of the workers in the establishment. He gave a call for increasing the CGT
membership to one million.
& FRANK DEBATE
congress discussed the following three documents placed before it for its
on policy of CGT
on distribution of affiliation fee receipts to different levels of
these documents were debated in the congress. There was a free and frank
discussion and delegates expressed their views in the light of experience they
gained since the 47th congress of the CGT. The congress has elected commissions
on each topic to monitor the debate and the representatives of the commissions
replied to all the points raised by the delegates. There was voting on each
issue. The first two documents were adopted by about 80 per cent majority of the
document on the allocation of share of affiliation fee was adopted by nearly 70
per cent of the delegates. On certain issues a system of card voting was
adopted, which took into account the membership of each union indicating its
was a pre-congress discussion among all affiliated unions and more than one
thousand amendments were received from different unions. In the meetings
of the union, held after the discussions, mandate was given to the delegates to
decide the voting preference. A certain number of delegates abstained from
voting on all the documents. On an average, 90-95 per cent of the delegates took
part in the voting.
debate was open for all the delegates and every union was permitted to speak.
However, the time allotted was only four minutes for the speech. Hence every
delegate had prepared written text to explain his viewpoint in a crystallised
TO GROWING ATTACKS
speakers gave instances of victimisation of trade union leaders for
participating in union activities to resist the policies of globalisation.
North African worker pointed out the grievances of the migrant workers whose
conditions are extremely bad. He appealed to the trade unions to take up their
issues in right earnest. Many speakers reported how through protracted struggles
they could convert short-term contract into long-term contract to ensure better
job opportunities to the workers.
criticised the government for allowing MNCs in oil sector to make huge money due
to the abnormal rise in oil prices. Privatisation of motor services and airports
were criticised by some speakers who demanded a determined struggle to stop
speakers noted how the French Labour Code has been destroyed in the name of
flexibility and casualisation while the employers blatantly go about violating
the legal provisions.
of retired workers were raised by several speakers who asked for payment of more
attention to them. They demanded enhancement of pension to meet the rising cost
women delegates argued for fixing demonstrations at a time when women can
participate in large numbers keeping in mind their domestic responsibilities.
order to make the CGT activities more effective some speakers suggested
strengthening of the coordination between different industry-wise federations of
of the new leadership was held in a democratic manner through secret ballot.
Bernard Thibault and other leaders were elected with overwhelming majority of
votes of the delegates.
his concluding remarks, Thibault congratulated the delegates for successfully
concluding the congress and called upon all the unions to work unitedly to
implement the decisions taken by the congress.
congress concluded with the singing of Internationale and with slogans
for worldwide unity of the working class in the struggle against globalisation.