“Illegal” but “moral” … The “Robins Hood” of the CGT draw the weapon of electricity
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Fiercely opposed to the pension reform project, the CGT wants to multiply the operations of free gas and electricity for modest households, nurseries or even hospitals, on the occasion of the big day of mobilization scheduled for January 31. The Montreuil power plant also poses the threat of “targeted cuts” of electricity. A muscular mode of action aimed at bending the government but which is not unanimous among the unions.
The CGT is ready to harden the movement against the pension reform. Its powerful National Federation of Mines and Energy (FNME) began to implement this week “a battle plan” announced in mid-January to roll back the government.
Throughout France, employees in the energy sector have “placed free electricity or gas” in hospitals, public housing, libraries, local associations, schools or nurseries, granted reduced rates to small businesses or even restored power for precarious users whose contract had been interrupted.
In Marseille, the trade union center launched an intervention on the counters on Monday to “lower by 60%” the bill for bakers. “It’s completely illegal, it’s also completely moral for us,” said Renaud Henry, general secretary of CGT Énergie Marseille to RMC.
The union headed by Philippe Martinez is thus demanding “Robins des Bois” and “general interest” actions in a context of inflation and a sharp rise in energy prices for companies that no longer benefit from regulated tariffs since the January 1, 2021 and while many households are struggling to pay their bills despite the tariff shield.
Energy poverty which is not new in France since a government study recently revealed that a quarter of households had difficulty paying their bills in 2021.
A chosen one plunged into darkness
A few days before the next interprofessional mobilization against the pension reform on January 31, the CGT thus intends to increase the pressure on the government by a notch. The FNME, which opposes the postponement of the legal retirement age to 64 and the abolition of special regimes in the energy sector, threatens to multiply this type of action but also to cut off the current so targeted at elected officials in favor of the reform.
“On the ground, the anger is strong. The targeted cuts are not at all set aside, quite the contrary. There were some last week, this week, and there will certainly be some next week,” said warned Friday on LCI Sébastien Menesplier the secretary general of the FNME-CGT.
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The Renaissance MP for Lot, Huguette Tiegna, already paid the price ten days ago: the office of the elected representative located in Figeac was plunged into darkness for nearly four hours as well as several shops. The majority MP and Enedis, the network manager, have announced that they want to file a complaint. The same day, in Essonne and Haute-Marne, several institutional buildings, prefecture or departmental council, were affected by voluntary cuts.
“It is not up to the CGT to lay down the law” but “to parliamentarians”, hammered Tuesday on Europe 1 the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire while his colleague in the energy transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, denounced “unacceptable intimidation”.
“All ways to stop this reform are good as long as they are not violent”, justified for her part the deputy EELV Sandrine Rousseau at the microphone of BFMTV. “On the other hand, having two more years of work when you have pain in your back and shoulders, that’s violent”.
A controversial mode of action
These debates around the merits of savage power cuts come up regularly in France during major social conflicts. In recent history, employees have resorted to it in particular during the strikes of the winter of 1986-87 and then of 1995. More targeted cuts also took place in 2004 within the framework of the mobilization against the process of privatization of EDF.
In 2009, during a social conflict in the energy sector, electricity and gas cuts also sparked controversy. The Prime Minister at the time, François Fillon, then accused the strikers of “sabotage”.
However, this mode of action is not unanimous within the trade union movement. The secretary general of the CFDT, Laurent Berger, assured this week that his organization “does not endorse power cuts”. The boss of the reformist union indeed fears to lose part of the opinion in the event of hardening of the movement.
For the moment, the French look favorably on union mobilization. According to an Ipsos-Steria poll published on January 18, 65% of French people support the upcoming social movements against the pension reform.
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If Laurent Berger recognized differences in the modes of action with the CGT, the leader of the CFDT recalled the unity of the unions against the reform while the deputies are preparing on Monday to work in committee on the text of the government .