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Interview. Italian union leader Maurizio Landini spoke with il manifesto about the French election and the future of European labor.

Landini: In French vote, ‘there was no alternative’

“There was no alternative, given that one of the candidates on the ballot was a Fascist: If I were French, I would certainly have voted for Macron in the second round.” FIOM General Secretary Maurizio Landini said “the CGIL has always been anti-fascist” and has no reservations about the outcome of the French presidential elections.

But he is equally clear about the program of the new tenant of the Elysee palace. “The unions in Europe are renewing the challenge against liberal policies: They are not only wrong, they are also ineffective. Just look at the results of the Jobs Act.”

Where was the labor movement in the French contest? From the analysis of the last elections worldwide, from Brexit to Trump’s victory, it seems that workers and the poorest classes are often enchanted by the sirens of populism. Mélenchon has had a good result in the first round, but he was not entirely free of euroscepticism. What message are we to take from Paris?

More than populist, I’d call Marine Le Pen’s party fascist. And I believe that the key factor of Macron’s victory was the so-called “republican alliance,” sprung into action several times in French history to repel the perceived enemies of democracy. That said, if we look at the numbers, we see that Macron got 19 million votes in the second round while Le Pen got 10.5 million, but we have 16 million French who have chosen to hand over a blank vote or abstain. This denotes a major crisis for the two traditional parties — neither of them made it to the ballot — and at the same time, it tells us that a large portion of people do not feel represented. We will have to wait and see who will take the majority in the next parliamentary elections, those for the National Assembly.

Maurizio Landini

Obviously, the liberal recipes of Macron’s program cannot represent workers.

Macron began with 23 percent in the first round, but for two years and until 2016, he was a minister in Hollande’s government. He backed out not to avoid being burdened by the responsibility of laws adopted under Hollande, which led the Socialist Party to such a record low, it’s almost disappeared. The central point of his program, on which I think the unions will fight back, is the attack on collective bargaining. As has already happened in Italy, Spain and England, it aims to question the fundamental rights of labor, the role of collective bargaining and trade unions.

So, must any answer from the unions be expressed in European terms?

For us, the answer must surely be European, even in the action that the unions can put in place. We must revise the treaties, starting with the Fiscal Compact, addressing the high levels of unemployment with new investment policies, defend and qualify collective bargaining rights, including for those who are on the margins like the unemployed and temporary workers.

What about a minimum wage for the entire continent? The CES, the European trade union, is pointing at single standards to avoid dumping.

That’s one route, but the bar must be held on bargaining. When Macron offers business contracts that may derogate laws or collective bargaining agreements, what is he telling us? It is the same as Article 8 introduced in Italy by Sacconi a few years ago. We need to reject these solutions and move instead toward laws that protect freedom of workers to approve the contracts that affect them and to choose their own union representatives. We should aim — and this is our goal in Italy — toward a law certifying the representation of trade unions and businesses, at which point, minimum contracts will be applied to all and it will become valid by law.

This is what Renzi, after three years of government, and despite initial promises, has never given you.

Renzi’s three years in government have determined that he is no longer in government. Evidently those policies, starting from the Jobs Act, did not have the consent of the majority of the country. And Macron, as I said, has distanced himself from the laws implemented during Hollande’s five-year period, although for some time he was among the main protagonists. If I may, I would suggest Renzi to be more cautious: I see that he compares the votes of his followers in the primaries with the votes won by the French president in the general election. But how do you mix pears and apples? And remember that even Hamon got 1.2 million votes in the primaries, and we all saw what happened in the first round, when the Socialists got a record low.

In short, you cannot compare the French situation to the Italian.

No, because the largest anti-system movement, 5 Star, is not fascist, unlike what happened in France with Le Pen. But I see that in our country there is a transverse anti-union drive, which is impacting almost everyone in the field, and this reinforces the need for autonomous and independent action by the union. We have taken steps with FIOM and CGIL toward a referendum on vouchers and contracts. We were able to get a law. Now, we are working on the charter of universal labor rights.

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