[Marxism] French popular referendum rejects postal privatisation

Chris Latham latham_77 at iinet.net.au
Wed Oct 14 11:14:40 MDT 2009

French popular referendum rejects postal privatisation
Chris Latham

French people have sent a strong message to the government of Nicolas 
Sarkozy with 90% of respondents in a poll rejecting its moves to convert 
the national postal service, La Poste, into a publicly company. The poll 
result has highlighted public opposition to Sarkozy’s neo-liberal 
assault on public services.

While France, like other capitalist countries, has been undergoing 
restricting under both centre left and centre right governments since 
the 1980s, however these reforms have been to an extent blunted by 
working class resistance, most spectacularly during the 1995 strike wave 
against attacks on the public sector and the student led movement that 
defeated the First Employment Contract (CPE) legislation in 2005. Since 
his election Sarkozy has made clear that he intended to continue to push 
through further neo-liberal reform of the French economy including 
deregulation of university education, increased costs for patients in 
the health system. On July 29, the council of ministers adopted a bill, 
to be taken to parliament in November, for the partial privatisation of 
La Poste.

The push to convert La Poste into a public company has been met with 
opposition from French unions who argue that it is an attempt at 
privatisation by stealth. French postal unions called unlimited strike 
action, beginning September 21, i n Paris post offices where 140 workers 
have been sacked already this year. In addition unions and other 
progressive organisations have demanded that the government conduct a 
referendum on its proposal, which the government refused to do (public 
referendums can be initiated if supported one fifth of MPs and 10% of 
registered voters – around 4.5 million people).

Opponents of the privatisation, organised through the National Committee 
Against the Privatisation of the Post (CNPP) which brings together 62 
union, political and social organisations, initiated their own 
referendum on the question which closed on October 3. People were asked 
“the government wants to change the status of La Poste (the postal 
service) to private, do you agree with the project?". Across France more 
than 2.1 million people participated in the vote with more than 90 
percent opposing privatisation. On October 5, the CNPP issued statement 
that called on “the president and his government to hear the verdict and 
permanently renounce this Act” and reminded the public that “La Poste is 
for you all, no change in the status can be made without a referendum”.

In response to the outcome government spokespeople have attempted to 
pour cold water on the outcome and undermine the legitimacy of the vote. 
Christian Estrosi, Minister of Industry, dismissed the vote on October 
3, telling /Radio France International/ “No doubt, there will be 99% per 
cent against it”.

As part of its October 5 statement, the CNPP called on its local 
committees to begin meet immediately with the senators and members of 
their department and district government to demand the withdrawal of the 
Bill. On October 13, the CNPP issued a new statement outlining the 
expansion of it campaign against the privatisation. This included:

    * Launching a petition card to send to the President of the
      Republic, this postcard will be posted on the website will
      demanding respect the vote of October 3; withdrawal of the bill on
      the agenda of the Senate and National Assembly; an open public
      debate; the holding of a referendum on the future of public postal
    * Calls a week of mobilization against privatization, development of
      public postal service and the organization of a referendum from
      October 31 to November 7.
    * On October 31 the National Committee calls for further initiatives
      underway, such as organizing rallies at post offices involving
      population, politicians and postal workers.
    * On 2 November the national committee decides on a rally outside
      the Senate in the presence of representatives of local committees
      and elected officials.

The CNPP statements indicated that if the opposition to the 
privatisation of La Poste is ignored and the law is approved in the 
Senate and the government the campaign will be further escalated. The 
CNPP plans to organize satellite events on the same day in November and 
will initiate a discussion at the local level a national mobilisation in 
Paris in December.


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