The movement against the pension reform brings back memories to the anti-CPE

It is a memory that gives hope to opponents of pension reform: that of the CPE, the first job contract. In 2006, after three months of anger, strikes and demonstrations, the government of Dominique de Villepin gave up, even though the law had been promulgated on March 31, 2006. It was 17 years ago, almost to the day . Something to make today’s demonstrators nostalgic, who still believe in a step back from the government of Elisabeth Borne.

The last great social victory

At the start of 2006, nearly one young person in four was unemployed in France. In response, Jacques Chirac’s Prime Minister, Dominique De Villepin, then announced the creation of the CPE, the first job contract. A specific contract for those under 26, with a trial period of two years instead of a maximum of eight months for a permanent contract and which therefore allowed the employer to separate from the employee during this period, without any particular reason. Although adopted in Parliament, the CPE will never see the light of day. Faced with opposition from the streets, the government gave in.

The idea that we can win, among opponents of pension reform, is gaining a lot of ground. So it necessarily recalls the last great social victory, which is the CPE”, says Karl Stoeckel, a final year student in Paris in 2006 and one of the leaders of the Union Nationale Lycée (UNL).

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A favorable “weather”

In 2006, Razzy Hammadi was president of the Movement of Young Socialists (MJS), a political youth organization, necessarily at the forefront of the challenge to a reform from a right-wing government. “Something happened back then called the weather”, he explains, seeing an obvious parallel with the current situation. “Social weather, with mobilization and unity; the weather of public opinion, with a sympathy for the movement which gradually became ultra-majority; and then the weather, the climate! The days got longer, it got warmer”, remembers the one who later was PS deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis (2012-2017). The largest processions against the CPE, which brought together between one and three million people, paraded with the arrival of spring, at the end of March, beginning of April.

Solidarity between generations

Among the common points that come up regularly among those who have campaigned against the CPE: intergenerational solidarity. “At the time, it was the previous generations who refused that young people could be dismissed without reason for two years”, explains Karl Stoeckel. “Today, it is the young people who are massively in the mobilization and who think of their father, their mother, their uncle, their aunt who will lose two years of retirement.

Same story with Razzy Hammadi: “The CPE concerned young people, but a young person is someone’s son, daughter or grandson, granddaughter, in the same way that a pensioner is always the father or grandfather of someone.“In 2006, the movement started with the mobilization of young people in high schools and universities, some of whom had been blocked for several weeks. Gradually, the protest spread and the trade unions supported the demands of the youth. “At the beginning, the unions did not believe much in mobilizing on a modification of an employment contract”, recalls Razzy Hammadi.

Fear of an increase in violence

As during the last demonstrations against the pension reform and the use of 49-3 (which was also used in 2006, but not on the CPE specifically) in Paris but also in Rennes, Nantes or Bordeaux, there is in 2006 outbursts, clashes between demonstrators and police. We are barely a year after the riots in the suburbs, still in everyone’s mind, especially those of the Prime Minister and his government.

We could see that their concern was that at some point the unions would no longer be able to hold on to anything and that this would generate too high a level of violence”, remembers Étienne Hallais, in his final year at the Joliot-Curie high school in Rennes. “That’s what, at the time, I think, made them back down. Today, regardless of the level of tightening, it doesn’t really feel like the government is ready to do that.”

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I think we are already at that moment. It’s not gonna stop”, according to Razzy Hammadi, who draws a parallel with other social movements on this precise point: “The crisis of the yellow vests has shown that a social movement, no pun intended with European conflicts, at high intensity, our police cannot manage them for more than a fortnight or three weeks. The police do not have an unlimited capacity to manage this type of movement”, estimates the former deputy. It was on April 10, 2006 that Dominique de Villepin definitively buried the CPE, two months after its adoption by the National Assembly.

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