16 September 2001
The CNT-AIT section among the municipal workers in Blagnac (France) was formed in March 1998 with a small nucleus of militants and some openly sympathetic municipal employees. Starting from the need for freedom of expression and action the new section soon pinpointed two primary issues among the problems facing the wageworkers in the public service - the problems of discriminatory bonuses and casual labor.
Very quickly, in the space of eight months, the struggle against casual labor kicked off with the creation of a dynamic inter-union coordination (intersyndical) composed of CNT-AIT, CMB (Collectives of the Municipal Workers of Blagnac, an autonomous union), SUD and CGT (CGT dropped out of the intersyndical in March 2000). The CNT-AIT insisted that all décisions be taken by the base. On the basis of this principle the workers of the intersyndical participated in the council of employees (a body made up of all workers regardless of whether or not they are in a union) where the positions and actions to be taken were really decided. The first employees’ council general assembly, in january 1999, was attended by 30 casual workers (all women) from the child-care centers (vacataires d’animation) and some others. This meeting dealt with the question of contingence and established some work groups.
More meetings took place involving the employees’ council and the intersyndical, which brought its own ideas about advancing the movement and technical support (organizing publicity, meetings with the director of human resources, general assemblies with the children’s parents, circulation of petitions, help in compiling a report confirming the need for stable employment, etc.). At the same time, the vacataires d’animation were meeting every 15 days and becoming more aware of their situation and of the solidarity that they were building. They were also becoming more confident in their capacity to take charge of their own struggle without the tutelage of the union apparatus. The methods advocated by the CNT-AIT were being adopted in practice.
It was during an employees’ council meeting around the issue of "contingency and bonuses", at the end of March 2000, that the workers decided to join the demands for equal bonuses and regularization of employment for casual workers. A strike was called for April 13. More than 200 workers rallied around the slogans "contingency, regularization and one bonus" and "perrnanent-casual, same work, same pay." The strike was a success. Twelve out of 14 schools were closed. The same day, a strikers’general assembly decided on another strike for May 4 if the authorities did not respond positively to their demands. The strike on May 4 engaged fewer workers (but involved some new workers); the authorities responded with a categorical refusal to grant the workers’ demands.
The struggle continued. The vacataires, aided by the intersyndical, campaigned for, and received, the support of the children’s parents. Another strike was decided on for May 30. Several messages were sent to the administration, some confusion as to the date of the strike (due to editing problems - was it May 30, june 6 or june 30?). This confused the authorities to such an extent that they could not respond in an orderly fashion and worked to the advantage of the workers. In addition, the announcement of the active support of parents and more street demonstrations made it clear that the movement was prepared to enter a harder phase of struggle.
On May 31 the town authorities called the unions together to announce the immediate creation of 14 permanent positions and the regularization upon demand of all casual employees beginning in September. The CNT-AIT demanded that the authorities receive a delegation in order to confirm these proposals. On june 5, after a period of reflection, the vacataires d’animation themselves decided to call off their strike. Their demands had been won.
What lessons can be learned from this struggle, which was really a first in the recent French social movement? 1. It was 100 percent a women’s movement. 2. It was the first case where casual workers organized and struggled and won. 3. It was a movement absolutely self-organized by the casual workers, with the support of regular workers and of consumers of the public service (i.e., the parents). The casual workers gained the support of the parents of the children, by explaining to them their dispute, and despite the fact that their strike was a problem for the parents. 4. This movement was made possible because of the continuous’underground’work of the small CNT-AIT section over the last three years. Members of the CNT-AIT had problems because of their activities: the staff wanted to fire them for .professional misconduct’ because of their union activity, but failed. So before the movement began the anarcho-syndicalists were well rooted in the workplace, and gained the support - or at least the respect - of many workers and this explains why this movement succeeded. 5. It shows that anarcho-syndicalists can ’contaminate’ other workers with our revolutionary point of view: the members of the local autonomous union (CMB) fired their "professional delegate" because she didn’t take care of the union or the strike but only of her private affairs. And the elected delegate of the same union to the works council resigned from her post after the strike, saying that elections are not useful for defending the workers’ rights and that struggles are needed !
CNT AIT 7 rue St Rémésy 31000 TOULOUSE France Tel / fax : +33 561 52 86 48 ***************** http://cntait89.free.fr
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