The French trade union centre, the Confederation Generale du Travail, held its 48th Congress in Lille, northern France, from 23 to 28 April 2006. The TUC was represented by Billy Hayes, its spokesperson on Europe and the general secretary of the CWU.
The conference took place just days after the French trade union movement, with all its different tendencies working both together and with the students' organisations, succeeded in forcing the government to withdraw legislation (the 'contrat du premiere embauche', or first recruitment contract) which would have considerably lessened employment security for first time job-seekers.
Drawing on that success, the CGT general secretary Bernard Thibault called for more unity of action both domestically, ie with the other French national centres, and internationally, particularly through the CGT affiliating to the new international confederation which is due to be established in Vienna in November (and to which the TUC will belong). The CGT leadership won big majorities for its proposals - the reports on past activities and on future orientations winning 4 to 1 majorities. Thibault himself was re-elected for a third three year term as general secretary by 92 per cent of delegates.
The conference also agreed on a new financial system for the confederation designed to channel more resources to smaller and weaker unions to help them to recruit members in the private sector and particularly in small and medium sized companies. Currently, the CGT has 711,000 members and it wants to increase this to at least one million by the next congress in 2009.
Issued: 4 May, 2006