(17 January 2019) Close to 2000 participants discussed the social situation in France. The “yellow vests” or gilets jaunes are a phenomenon that is pushing many of the demands of the unions. They seek an increases in pay, want to end the job insecurity many workers experience, ask the government to address tax avoidance by corporations and the rich and stress the need to rebuild public services in rural and urban areas. The reaction of the French President Macron has been to call for a Grand Debat with French people. Delegates were not convinced that there would be a change of course. They took as example his continued support, on the eve of his announcement for the Grand Debat, for the closure of a well-performing maternity leaving a large area without access to such services. Another example concerned the continued under-funding of elderly care in France (EHPAD) and the union considers taking further action. Anger was high over the refusal of the government to improve the pay of public service workers despite large protests in October 2017 and May 2018. The union supports further action and is open to strike again. Congress adopted the guidelines for the furture work.
The EPSU General Secretary participated in the Congress. He underlined the importance of working together as unions in these times of nationalism to advance our agenda. The European Parliament elections are a crucial moment to make clear that we support a European Union that is different and which puts workers’ and people’s interests before those of corporations. Austerity has to stop. We need more Europe, more cooperation to address challenges we face. He paid his respect to the union’s General Secretary Yves Kottelat and to André Falba. Both will retire. André is vice-President of the Standing Committee Local and Regional Government, he was key support in organizing the EPSU Congress in Toulouse (2014). He thanked them and many other delegates and activists for their support singling out the delegates in French multinational ORPEA. The ORPEA delegates together with those of the other French unions showed their support in an European action for sacked German unionists in Celenus, a subsidiary of ORPEA. At the end of the intervention delegates expressed their solidarity with the Hungarian workers fighting against the slave laws.
The FO Congress took place in Rouen, 14-17 January 2019. Other speakers included amongst others Yves Veyrier, the recently elected General Secretary of the Confederation and Christian Grolier, General Secretary of FGF-FO.