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Unions say Sarkozy playing with fire

President’s statement that ‘no one notices strikes’ provokes fury from the left-wing.

President Sarkozy’s statement that no one notices strikes anymore has provoked furious reaction from the left-wing.

He was speaking at the national conference of the UMP party when he said: “From now on, when there is a strike, no one notices.”

He added that France was in the process of changing ‘more deeply than we would believe.’

The statement has provoked a backlash from unions and political parties.

CGT Union spokeswoman Maryse Dumas said: "The president of the Republic is playing with fire because if now, to make collective demands heard, the participants must use actions that bother others, we risk entering into a dangerous spiral for our country.”

She added that the statement showed "contempt for employees working in the public service and trying to cause the least amount of inconvenience for people.”

The secretary general of the Force Ouvriere trade union, Jean-Claude Mailly said that the president had uttered "one word too many" and should be more careful in light of the "real discontentment of workers" on several subjects.

Socialist Party spokesman Julien Dray denounced the ‘infantile declarations’ which he said exposed the ‘manner in which he [Sarkozy] perceived social dialogue’ between unions and government.

He added that the government should take care and that ‘he who laughs last laughs longest’.

François Bayrou, head of the centrist Modem party said: “When you humiliate in the same week the army, public broadcasters and the unions, that’s a lot for someone whose mission is to bring people together.

“These statements by Nicolas Sarkozy are just bravado for the front pages and bragging for the others.

“When you don’t bring France together and you’re president of the Republic, you are not doing your job.”

Sarkozy’s chief spokesman Claude Guéant said the president ‘meant that social relations were in the process of changing in this country.’

He added that in France strikes often took place before unions had even put forward their complaints.

“Today we have discussions before people go on strike, that’s real progress in social dialogue,” he said.

Since being elected President Sarkozy has introduced ‘minimum service’ legislation for railways and schools that obliges unions to forewarn about strikes.

The legislation means that some trains must run during rush hour and that schools must be able to look after children during strikes.

Photo: Medef

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