“Very early on, energy workers realized their eminent place in the economy”
Like the transport sector, the energy sector (electricity, gas, refiners) is at the forefront of the current mobilization against the government plan to reform pensions. From the beginning of the XXe century, “energy workers have become aware of their prominent place in the general functioning of the economy”, notes trade union specialist Stéphane Sirot, professor of history at the University of Cergy-Pontoise.
Why do we find energy workers at the forefront of mobilization today?
Electricians and gas workers still have a strong professional identity. These are status jobs. The national status of the personnel of the electricity and gas industries is a great social conquest of the post-Second World War [avec le départ anticipé à la retraite, selon la pénibilité des métiers]. A conquest of which the liberalization of energy in Europe has been threatening, for the past thirty years, the sustainability or the perimeter. This status, like the future of the EDF company, creates a certain union unity, with the CGT still very strongly established and combative. Even if it has declined, it does not prevent it from remaining the first trade union organization [38 % des voix aux élections professionnelles de 2019].
How to explain the still important weight of the trade unions in this branch?
A peculiarity characterizes the electricity and gas industries. For EDF as for GDF, these two nationalized companies had for creator… the man who until then was trade union leader of the CGT federation of the sector. In this case Marcel Paul, then Communist Minister of Industrial Production in the government of General de Gaulle [en 1946]. This situation has long generated special social relations, with a perception of the general interest crystallizing all the actors: the State, the unions and the managers of the company, including Marcel Boiteux [directeur, puis président d’EDF entre 1967 et 1987].
How does the use of subcontracting, very present in the nuclear industry in particular, influence the trade union field?
It is much more complicated to mobilize on the same site individuals whose companies, working conditions, salaries, or statuses differ. Subcontracting considerably complicates union work. This is also why there is a demand for an energy company status that could be applicable to all those who intervene in the sector.
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