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At full steam: the struggle of railroad workers in France

With a young appearance, Macron managed to appear as a stranger in French political scene, distancing itself from its nationalist adversary and extreme right, Marine Le Pen (National Front) and the former government of François Hollande (Socialist Party) – of which he was minister. Its program aimed at a reformulation of the State through the cutting of supposed “royalties” of the public servants and his campaign appealed for “unity” around the resolution of the problems of France – as indicated by their motto: “La France doit “It is an opportunity for all” – France must be an opportunity for all; Y “Ensemble, la France!” – Together, France.

After a short time in power, the hypothesis of attacks with the government became a necessity, because one of the most outstanding characteristics of the management of Macron became the speed to approve and implement measures of neoliberal stamp.

Since the beginning of the administration, three reforms have stood out: the pension reform, the labor reform and the education reform. In France, the forecast operates on a “pay as you work” basis, that is, the money from the contribution of the active workers is used to pay the pension of the retirees, with the change implemented, the contributions of the workers give them the right to points and these at the time of retirement, will equal a value for the pension, however, those points do not have a fixed value, then they can be valued or devalued over time, making that in the new pension system the value of the worker’s contribution is defined, however, the amount of pension that the latter will receive will be indefinite

The Labor Reform, for its part, is a declaration of confrontation to the self-organization of the workers, since it withdraws its political function unions in the intermediation between the worker and the employer. With the reform, the employers can negotiate directly with employees, disregarding collective agreements voted for by the category; the new rules are aimed at ensure that companies do not stop working under any circumstances, so, In case of answer of the workers in relation to some measure of the employer, they run the risk of being dismissed without the right to answer.

In French education, various modifications were made, including the reform of the vestibular. Before, the existing vestibular selected little; that linked to the significant increase of students in age to access higher education generated the overpopulation of universities. In this way, student demand has become the creation of new universities and the expansion of existing ones. However, the response of the government of Emmanuel Macron was in the opposite direction: restrict access to the faculties by means of the reformulation of the BAC (baccalauréat – French entrance exam). Now, the evaluation is given continuously from the school (“lycée”), when students must choose subjects to have more or less weight in their training, to the detriment of the career they intend to pursue; A stage with oral evaluation was added, in addition to the English language test. The short-term result of this new modality was disastrous, as nearly 400 thousand students were not accepted at any university or were left on waiting lists.

By the measures of the first months of government, the popularity of the new president fell sharply among the population; from that, the scenario that seemed favorable to Macron and its reform plans became unstable, having as its epicenter the strike of the railways in France in 2018.

The train system in France is entirely public and the body responsible for managing this means of transport is the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français – National Association of Railways in France). The evaluation of the government is that the train system works insufficiently and not a little profitable to the public coffers, given that it receives annual subsidies in the house of 40 billion euros, at the same time that its debt is more than quadruple of that value.

Based on this diagnosis, the solution given by the management of Macron was the proposal of a reform in the railway system including: closure of minor lines, under allegation of lack of demand; abrupt changes in the work status of railways, foreseeing the closure of hiring for life and the end of automatic readjustment of wages, for example; In addition to the opening of the train lines to the competition, privatization is read … On the other hand, the railroads have demanded an immediate increase of the salaries (300 euros); the reduction in the load of 32h of weekly work without reduction of salary; prohibition of voluntary layoff plans; against the progress of large private companies in the train system; etc

The strike has been extended since April of this year, lasting for almost three years. Rail unions are historically known in France as difficult to be defeated in disputes like this, having been responsible in 1995 for the resignation of French Prime Minister Alain Juppé, when he also headed an attempt at a series of reforms in social security of the population, including drastic changes in transportation, forecasting, and health. The strike took place between November and December 1995, involving workers from the public and private sectors of transport, health, post, telecommunications, education, etc., entering into history as the largest mobilization since May 1968 in France.

In the current strike, the stoppages have occurred in the ratio of two to five days. At first, there were doubts if a strike that was not continuous would be able to withstand a fall of arm with Emmanuel Macron, however, the paralysis in some days generates chaos during the rest of the week in the railway system, allowing the strike became one of the longest in the history of the category and accumulating a loss of billions for the government; In addition, the railway workers have managed to guarantee the almost complete replacement of the strikers’ salaries (more than 50% of the category) by means of campaigns and activities that extrapolate the limits of the category itself, having until now a partial victory in the category. Macron’s retreat in terms of closing smaller train lines and having the possibility of doubling a government that until then seemed untouchable.








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