A day of action by the French trade union CGT on 15 June saw six French cities plunged into darkness.
In Paris, about 6000 workers took to the streets to protest the French government’s plans to make as much as 30% of Electricité de France (EdF) and Gaz de France available to private investors as part of its energy market liberalisation plans. CGT general secretary, Bernard Thibault, said: “This plan was not acceptable yesterday, it is not acceptable today and will not be tomorrow.” However, a poll in Le Parisien newspaper revealed that 70% of the French public find such industrial action unacceptable.
EdF’s output was cut by about 12% and parts of Arras, Bordeaux, Cahors, Grenoble, and Limoges suffered power cuts. In addition, workers sabotaged power supplies to the homes of government ministers who have supported the changes including industry minister, Patrick Devedjian, prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and former prime minister Alain Juppé, who is now the head of France’s leading business federation. Electricity supplies were even restored to families who had been unable to pay their bills.
Such tomfoolery, however, is unlikely to divert the course of the government. Mr Devedjian said: “EdF belongs to the nation. Parliament will decide.” The previous government signed up for the liberalisation of the country’s energy market, making changes to EdF’s statute inevitable. In January, the French government began taking steps to remove EdF’s state guarantees which mean exemption from bankruptcy and insolvency after the European Commission forced EdF to repay €888 million in ‘unjustified operating aid’.
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