France's unions call for protests to pressure Macron into naming leftist government

FILE - Newly elected CGT union secretary general Sophie Binet attends a demonstration on April 13, 2023 in Paris. In an interview Thursday July 11, 2024 with France Inter broadcaster, Binet has called for massive protests against what she says is President Emmanuel Macron's denial of legislative elections results that produced no outright majority in the National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File) (Thibault Camus, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PARIS – With just 15 days before the start of the Olympic Games in Paris, a major French union on Thursday called for mass demonstrations and possible strikes to pressure President Emmanuel Macron into “respecting the results” of recent legislative elections and allow a left-wing coalition to form a new government.

France has been at the brink of a governing paralysis since Sunday's vote for the National Assembly resulted in a legislature split among three political groupings: the New Popular Front leftist coalition, Macron’s centrist allies and the far-right National Rally of Marine Le Pen.

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The New Popular Front won the most seats but fell short of an outright majority to govern on its own. The alliance's three main parties, the hard-left France Unbowed, the Socialists and the Greens, have urged the president to turn to them to form the new government.

Sophie Binet, the general secretary of the influential hard-left CGT union, said in an interview with French broadcaster LCI Thursday that if Macron did not respect the results of the election, “he risks once again plunging the country into chaos.”

Binet said the president should allow the New Popular Front to form the new government, although the leftist alliance has not yet proposed a candidate for prime minister because of internal divisions. She called on union members to take to the streets and “join rallies to put the National Assembly under surveillance.”

Binet didn’t rule out strikes during the Olympics. Asked about strikes that could disrupt the biggest event France has ever organized, she said: ‘’At this stage we don’t plan a strike during the Olympic Games. But if Emmanuel Macron continues to throw gasoline cans on the fires that he lighted … ’’

CGT has an open call for potential strikes by public service workers from July through September. The Olympics run July 26-Aug. 11.

Macron has asked his prime minister, Gabriel Attal, to continue handling day-to-day affairs, despite Attal’s offer of resignation. On Wednesday, Macron said he will wait for the country’s political parties to build a broad consensus at the National Assembly before he can decide on a new prime minister, infuriating the leftist coalition and the unions.

The new legislature’s inaugural session is scheduled for July 18.

CGT railway workers called for nationwide rallies on July 18 in front of the prefectures and near the National Assembly in Paris to demand the New Popular Front be allowed to form a government, according to the union’s statement.

The leader of the center-left CFDT union, Marylise Léon, also expressed concern about Macron’s reluctance to name a new prime minister whose government could start addressing workers’ problems.

“The expectations of workers around purchasing power and working conditions have not disappeared,” Léon said in an interview with broadcaster France Inter Thursday. “To strike is sometimes the only way to be able to unblock a situation.”

She said the union would not rule out strikes during the Olympics “in certain sectors if social dialogue breaks down,” including in private security and at the Paris airports. However, she added, “the goal of CFDT is not to block the Olympics.”

Last year, unions organized mass protests to try to stop Macron's government from raising the retirement age.

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