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Cablegate: Growing Discord Over Abolished Holiday Threatens A

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS PARIS 002975

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EUR/WE, EUR/ERA, EUR/PPD, DRL/IL, INR/EUR AND EB
DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB
DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB EU FR PINR SOCI ECON
SUBJECT: GROWING DISCORD OVER ABOLISHED HOLIDAY THREATENS A
RESURGENCE OF SOCIAL UNREST IN RUN-UP TO MAY 29 REFERENDUM

REF: A. (A) PARIS 2746 AND PREVIOUS
B. (B) PARIS 2942 AND PREVIOUS
C. (C) PARIS 2825
D. (D) PARIS 2663

SUMMARY
-------
1. (SBU) A government initiative to fund health care for the
elderly through the elimination of the Whit Monday holiday is
meeting strong opposition from organized labor and leftist
political activists. Discord over this "day of solidarity",
May 16, could provoke strikes and unrest in the run-up to the
referendum on the EU Constitution May 29 (reftel B). END
SUMMARY.

ELIMINATION OF HOLIDAY
----------------------
2. (U) Legislation passed last year turned the Whit Monday
holiday (the Monday after Pentecost) into a normal working
day. The law called for 0.3% of an employee's yearly wages
-- the equivalent of a day's work )- to be turned over to a
National Solidarity Fund to improve health care for the
elderly and handicapped. The fund is expected to collect 2.6
billion USD (2 billion euros). Although initially passed
with little opposition, the law has been heavily criticized
in recent weeks. One opinion poll shows that 74 percent of
French workers are against the plan.

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ORGANIZED LABOR OBJECTS
-----------------------
3. (SBU) France's major trade union federations have all
objected to the project. France's highest court for
administrative matters, the State Council, is expected to
rule May 3 on a case brought by the French Confederation of
Christian Workers (CFTC), which argues the law is contrary to
the European Convention of Human Rights, ban on forced
labor. The Force Ouvriere (FO) federation also plans legal
action.

MAY 16 -- NEURALGIC MOMENT IN RUN-UP TO MAY 29
--------------------------------------------- -
4. (SBU) The run-up to the referendum on the EU Constitution
has already seen a wave of protest activity, which the
government has tried to turn off (reftel A). Whit Monday
falls on May 16 this year, just two weeks before the May 29
referendum. A range of labor and activist organizations are
calling for strikes and demonstrations that day, threatening
to make May 16 the focal point for a second wave of street
protests and demonstrations. The government fears these
could have an unsettling effect on public opinion,
exacerbating widespread discontent with economic prospects,
just as many undecided voters are turning their attention to
how they will vote on May 29 (reftels C and D).

COMMENT
-------
5. (SBU) There is additional tension to the Whit Monday
dispute between labor groups and the conservative government,
as unions attempt to use the government's need for calm on
the social front in the run-up to the referendum to gain
concessions, and the GOF tries to hold its ground. Both
sides could easily mismanage their conflict, setting loose
repercussions in public opinion that, in the view of most
observers, would most likely bolster already well-entrenched
'vote-no' sentiment. END COMMENT.
ROSENBLATT

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