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France’s CGT elects female leader, a first in union’s 128-year history

Sophie Binet became the surprise choice to lead one of France’s best-known unions

Sophie Binet (left) will take over Philippe Martinez (right) as the new general secretary of France’s CGT union Pic: Sophie Binet / Facebook / GERARD BOTTINO / Shutterstock

A major French union has elected a woman as general secretary - a first in its 128-year history. 

The Confédération générale du travail (CGT) chose Sophie Binet on Friday (March 31) after eight hours of debate.

Ms Binet, 41, becomes the first woman to be elected as head of the CGT, one of France’s oldest unions. 

It was her third attempt at getting the top job. 

She replaces Philippe Martinez, who has been the union’s general secretary for the last eight years. 

Ms Binet beat off competition from Marie Buisson, who Martinez had designated as his successor, and Céline Verzeletti, a more radical figure.

Born in 1982, she started her career at Unef’s student union before joining the CGT, one of France’s more radical unions. She was its chief education officer. 

Previously she headed the Ugict-CGT, the union branch responsible for managers, engineers and technicians. 

Reunion at the Elysée

Ms Binet's first meeting will take place next week, as the CGT is summoned at the Elysée Palace to find common ground on France’s controversial pension reforms with members of the government.

It comes after months of demonstrations from French people over the reforms and a strong rebuke from many of France’s opposition parties and unions, including the CGT under Mr Martinez.

It remains a mystery whether Ms Binet will shift or follow Mr Marinez’s stance on the issue.

France’s constitutional court is set to issue its ruling on the government’s controversial pension reforms on April 14.

Read more: France’s constitutional court sets date for ruling on pension reforms

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