French working class rallies in solidarity with trade unionist facing prosecution

Sébastien Menesplier, leader of a union affiliated to the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), was summoned by the police recently. The CGT claims that over 400 of its activists are being prosecuted in various courts for protesting the controversial pension reforms forced through by the Emmanuel Macron government

September 07, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Persecution of trade unionists France
Protest gathering in front of the gendarmerie of Montmorency on September 6, 2023. (Photo: via EPSU)

On Wednesday, September 6, workers’ unions and radical groups in France demonstrated in front of the Gendarmerie office at Montmorency in northern Paris to protest the state persecution of Sébastien Menesplier, the leader of the National Federation of Mines and Energy, which is affiliated to the General Confederation of Labor (CGT). Menesplier was summoned by the Gendarmerie on Wednesday as part of an investigation over a strike by energy sector workers against the controversial pension reforms forced through by the Emmanuel Macron-led government. 

The protestors included members of the CGT, the French Communist Party (PCF), and the Young Communist Movement of France (MJCF), among others. They called the summoning of the trade union leader an unacceptable attempt at intimidation and part of a larger agenda of union repression. 

Working class sections in Belgium, including the General Labor Federation of Belgium (FGTB/ABVV), also organized a demonstration in front of the French consulate in Brussels demanding the end of the ongoing persecution of trade unionists in France. The European Public Service Union (EPSU) also expressed solidarity with Menesplier. 

There is an attempt to implicate Menesplier for the power cuts faced by households in the town of Annonay in Ardèche department on March 8, when energy sector workers went on strike as part of the mass protests against the anti-worker pension reforms

The pension reform law, undemocratically enforced by the Macron government, increased the retirement age in the country from 62 to 64 and introduced other unpopular measures. The reforms faced massive protests from trade unions and the French left as millions took part in over a dozen nationwide mobilizations. During many of the protests, the country was virtually shut down. On several occasions, the security forces tried to intimidate the protesters with the use of force and violent tactics. 

In a statement on September 5, the CGT said there were attempts underway to persecute other leaders and members of the union besides Menesplier. The secretary general of the CGT is to be questioned by a commission of inquiry on Thursday about groups responsible for violence during the protests against pension reforms. On September 8, a trial of six activists, including CGT’s departmental delegate for Deux-Sèvres, David Bodin, will start at the court of Niort. They have been charged with organizing prohibited demonstrations in Sainte-Soline in October 2022 and March 2023. According to reports, over 400 CGT activists are currently being prosecuted in various courts for taking action against the pension reforms.