Since Tuesday, October 17, hundreds of workers in France who have irregular immigration status have been on strike. The majority of people on strike are working as temporary workers for subcontractors, specifically on building sites for the upcoming 2024 Olympic games. According to many of the protesters, they are being exploited by employers as low-paid employees to construct the structures needed to ensure the successful hosting of the Olympic games.
There are growing calls for workplace rights, full citizenship status, and the repeal of a recently implemented anti-migrant law introduced by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. The law, scheduled to be discussed by the Senate on November 6, is being described by the strike organisers as “one in a series of laws that are progressively limiting access to residence permits.”
The movement has also aimed to raise awareness about what many refer to as a “double game.” In France, there is a concerning reliance on workers without regular immigration status by both the country and employers for various building projects and to maximise their profits. However, it is disheartening to note that these workers are not treated as “fully human beings” and are often unjustly blamed for all the problems in society, being used as convenient “scapegoats”.
Another objective of the strike is to secure their regularisation, which refers to obtaining a special work residence permit that enables them to engage in salaried work. Without proper regularisation, this situation persists. This lack of fixed contracts makes it easier to exploit workers.
According to the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération Générale du Travail), the number of workers regularised each year is relatively low, ranging between 7,000 and 10,000. However, this figure is considered small when compared to their estimate of several hundred thousand people in this workforce.
Beginning of the strike
On the first day of the strike around 500 people, mainly from West and Central Africa occupied 33 construction, cleaning, and distribution companies located in Paris and its suburb, Seine-Saint-Denis. Making it the biggest walkout led by immigrants without right of abode, since 2009.
In a statement released Tuesday the organisers, Marche des Solidarités, and anti-racist groups outlined the purpose for the strike and encouraged others to join the ongoing protests, “Today, immigrants are stopping the Olympics and Greater Paris. We don’t have the right papers but we have rights, and first and foremost the rights of workers to strike and unionise. Construction workers, mostly immigrants and often ‘undocumented’, denounce all their bosses—and there are many of them!”
A section of the Confederation of Labour also echoed similar sentiments in their own statement writing, “For the vast majority of us, we work under the status of temporary worker. We refuse to continue to be overexploited. Because we are undocumented workers. we experience multiple discrimination. Our working conditions are systematically degraded, and the most precarious contracts are imposed on us.”
“We are workers in France but we are excluded from collective agreements and social rights. We are an integral part of the working class of this country. We create wealth and development like our colleagues,” They added.
All this week and into next there are scheduled sit-ins at various companies including the headquarters of a temporary employment company in Saint-Denis as well as demonstrations across Paris with the hopes of entering into negotiations.