On Wednesday (6 September) EPSU joined comrades from the French energy union CGT-FNME at a rally in Brussels protesting against attacks on the union’s leadership including its general secretary Sebastien Menesplier for their role in the resistance against the pension reforms. The union has also been active and outspoken in its campaign for public energy. Protests also took place across France with a focus on Montmorency where Sebastien was required to report to the local police station.
EPSU Vice-President Françoise Geng joined Sebastien in Montmorency while EPSU staff, our colleagues of industriAll Europe, the ETUC and other federations stood in solidarity outside the French consulate in Brussels. Comrades from the FGTB and CSC Belgian confederations also joined and spoke about similar attacks against their trade union leaders, including FGTB President Thierry Bodson. A CGT-FNME delegation from the electricity distribution network near Lille spoke at the rally, making the link with other fights for union rights. Meanwhile, in Vilnius, our colleagues of the Lithuanian industrial and energy union organised a rally where Inga Ruginiene, President of the LPSK Confederation and Vice President of the ETUC spoke.
I thank all the unions which sent messages of solidarity to the CGT-FNME and protest letters to the French government. From Kazakhstan and Estonia to Italy and Turkey our voice was loud and clear. On 5 October in Brussels, Belgian unions, together with human rights defenders, environmental organisations and many others, will continue their national protests against a new law which restrains protests.
Protests around Europe in lead up to Paris, 13 October
Speaking at the rally, I underlined the similarities between the attempts in the UK (Public Order Bill), France (Anti-squad law) and Belgium (Van Quickenborne legislation) to make protests more difficult. In the Netherlands, the FNV trade union has joined activists of Extinction Rebellion to protest against limits to their right to protest.
Trade unions in Finland are also facing a weakening of their rights with limits on political strikes and solidarity actions and broader restrictions on workers’ rights. These are part of a brutal attack by the government, which includes the extreme-right wing The Finns party (formerly the True Finns), whose plans include a programme of public spending cuts, including for health and social services. Finnish unions are organising regional rallies on 9 and 16 September and workers in health and care will be protesting against the cuts on 20 September in Helsinki.
On the same day, our colleagues of the German union ver.di will join a protest to demand more funding and staff for health care and a stop on hospital closures. On 16 September, the CGTP-IN, one of the Portuguese union confederations, is organising actions in defence of the public health system, as will our Italian colleagues of the CGIL confederation on 7 October. Polish civil service workers in the OPZZ and FZZ trade unions will take to the streets and strike on 15 September for higher wages, a demand that Swiss workers and the VPOD/SSP trade union will underline with a national rally for more pay on the following day in Bern. These same demands will see Austrian affiliates building a human chain around the national parliament to pressure the government for measures to deal with the cost-of-living crisis on 20 September.
I wish all success with the actions and the many demos, strikes and other protests not mentioned. And to recall, the French unions take those demands to the street of Paris on 13 October in a demo supported by EPSU and ETUC. If you send a delegation, please let us know. It will be great to join up.