Strike in civil service as pay talks stall

Download article in original language : FR0102127NFR.DOC

In January 2001, pay negotiations in France's civil service came to a halt when the civil service trade unions rejected the latest proposals from the minister concerned. The unions called a day of action on 30 January, which was widely supported in the key parts of the civil service.

The pay negotiations for France's 5.4 million state, local authority and hospital civil service employees that opened in November 2000 (FR0012108N) became deadlocked in January 2001. The seven civil trade service unions - CFDT, CFE-CGC, CFTC, CGT, CGT-FO, the Confederation of United Trade Unions (Fédération Syndicale Unitaire, FSU) and the National Federation of Independent Unions (Union nationale des syndicats autonomes, UNSA) - rejected the latest proposals tabled by the minister for the civil service on 19 January. The minister had committed himself to maintaining the purchasing power of all civil servants over the 2000-2 period, and raising that of the lowest paid. Disagreement arose over the method for calculating overdue pay rises for the period since 1999, when the previous pay agreement expired (FR9802192F).

To pressurise the government into reopening talks, a day of mobilisation was called on 30 January with the unanimous support of the unions. This unanimity contrasted with the day of action on 25 January over private sector pensions (FR0102132F), in which only five civil service unions participated (those affiliated to CFE-CGC, CFTC, CGT, CGT-FO and FSU) and a strike in hospitals on 6 February. The joint strike action was well supported. According to figures from the Ministry for the Civil Service, 30% of state civil servants and almost 25% of their colleagues in the hospital service backed the strike call. Some sectors were even harder hit. These were especially the ones where serious disputes had taken place in 2000, such as education (FR0004153N), where many schools were closed, the health service (FR0005161N) and the revenue division (FR0004157F). Between 90,000 and 150,000 civil servants demonstrated in the streets of around 60 towns.

After the failure of the talks on the 35-hour week in the civil service in early 2000 (FR0003151F), dialogue between the social partners in the civil service has now come to a standstill. However the success of the strike call, combined with imminent local elections, are tilting the balance towards a reopening of negotiations.

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