Wednesday, 19 January, 2022

Strike: why the exit from the crisis will be more difficult than in 1995

Black Thursday. The day of strike against the pension reform, Thursday, December 5, massively mobilized, especially in the ranks of RATP, SNCF and Air France, where the movement was also renewed. And for Saturday, December 7, it is the road carriers who are announcing filter dams throughout the territory. According to the historian specialist of the Fifth Republic Jean Garrigues, the way out of the crisis will be much more difficult than during the “great strikes” of 1995.

Challenges – The “great strikes” of 1995 are often referred to as an open defeat of the executive in the face of the street, but isn’t the reality a little more complex?

Jean Garrigues – The reality is obviously much more subtle. This image of an Alain Juppé “straight in his boots” forced to give in to social pressure does not really correspond to what came out of the crisis in 1995. It was above all a tactical withdrawal: Alain Juppé chose to back down on the “pensions” component of his project, which provided for the passage from 37.5 to 40 annual contributions, while maintaining his reform of Social Security. He made a sort of transaction, a “deal” with

reformist unions. This mixed reality has largely faded over time. And it was only later that trade union and political mythologies made 1995 a sweeping defeat for the Juppé government.

Can we really compare the current situation to that of 1995?

There are many differences. The demonstrations of December 1995 came at the end of a long phase of approach which had begun in the spring of the same year, with a whole series of mobilizations. The text itself was widely known to the demonstrators since it was under consideration in the National Assembly at the time of the strikes. Today, it is difficult to define its outlines, and the architecture of the government project should not be unveiled before next week by Edouard Philippe, which contributes to fuel the uncertainties and concerns of the French. Finally, the distribution of roles between Alain Juppé and Jacques Chirac was different: the Prime Minister pushed the text, while the president, above the fray, could call for negotiations. Today, it is difficult to see how Edouard Philippe could play the role of “fuse”.

What ways out of the crisis can the 1995 crisis inspire?

Trade unions hold part of the solution. At the time, they were the ones who put an end to the movement, the CDFT dissociating itself from the union mobilization. It is perhaps a potential ally for the government. Moreover, we note that the CFDT did not call to strike against the pension reform project, except in its railway branch. We can see that it leaves the possibility of negotiations ajar and that it spares the government ways out of the crisis, for example with the joint management of the index point of this new pension system or the abandonment of measures. savings … To survive the social movement, the government has no other choice but to fracture the union front.

Even if they reached an agreement with the government, would the unions, which are very fragile, be able to restore calm in the country?

This is indeed the great uncertainty and the main difference with 1995: the social climate has changed considerably. At the time there was a party in power and an opposition party which structured political life. The unions were powerful. Today, we see among some of the demonstrators the refusal to give in to political and union injunctions. The power plants are overwhelmed by their bases. It is therefore not certain that a summit negotiation between the government and the unions will succeed in stopping the movement. The weakening of the intermediary bodies adds a lot of uncertainty to the situation.

December 5 strike