French trade unionists call for solidarity amidst attacks on essential rights

Trade unionism is not a crime

(24 August 2023) Trade union rights are facing escalating challenges throughout Europe. In France, a number of trade union activists are currently being called to interviews with police. These summonses are directly linked to their participation in actions such as demonstrations, strikes, and other activities in connection with France's pension reform.

A significant step in this ongoing suppression of unions is the summons of Sébastien Menesplier, the General Secretary of the CGT’s National Federation for Mines and Energy (FNME) member of the national leadership of the CGT confederation. Menesplier has been summoned by Montmorency police because he is “suspected of having committed or attempted to commit the offence of endangering others by deliberate violation of a regulatory obligation of safety or prudence” in connection with actions taken by energy workers to protest the pension reform. This marks the first instance of a confederal leader being summoned on public safety charges for engaging in trade union activism. Beyond its immediate impact, this summons is a highly political action. It directly targets not only the CGT but also the entire energy sector workforce, who are defending their rights.

The French government's recent suppression of worker’s rights and the right to strike is part of a larger, disconcerting trend. Legislative measures are being introduced across Europe, each aiming to curtail the capacity of trade unions and other activists to stage demonstrations. For instance, France's recent expansion of the 'anti-squat' law criminalises company occupations and picketing on company premises. Meanwhile, Belgium's proposed 'Van Quickenborne' law aims to suppress riots but instead limits the right to protest and demonstrate, directly limiting union and activist actions. EPSU has joined Belgian unions, human rights defenders, environmental organisations, NGOs and others in their protest against the bill. The United Kingdom's Public Order Act similarly restricts the right to demonstrate, drawing sharp criticism from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who deemed it a law with a "chilling effect on civic freedoms."

FNME-CGT is rallying for a mass mobilisation in front of Montmorency police station on 6 September to demonstrate against the repression of trade union activists and the assault on the right to strike. The French union is also calling for a national strike in the energy sector. Meanwhile, as the European trade union federations who represent FNME-CGT, EPSU and IndustriAll will stage a solidarity protest outside the French embassy in Brussels on the same day. The right to strike is under attack across Europe, and an attack on one trade union leader represents an attack on all workers.

Joint letter EPSU/IndustriAll to the Minister for the Energy Transition - in EN and FR

Model letter Solidarity FNME- in EN and FR

Visual 1 - in EN and FR

Visual 2 - in EN and FR

Information from the FNME:
     - Oui à la lutte sociale - in EN and FR
     - Loi anti-squat Contre nos mobilisations - in EN and FR
     - Répression syndicale - in EN and FR
Solidarité internationale - in FR