Eurostar U.K. Ltd.

19 May 2005

French Unions call to strike over pensions


The French Trade Unions: CGT, CFDT, FO, CFTC, SUD Rail, UNSA, FGAAC, met on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 to discuss the situation with regard to the proposed changes to the pensions system.


They confirmed their commitment to the preparation and the success of the national demonstration in Paris on May 25, calling on inter-professional public/private sector unity to impress on the Raffarin government the need for pension reform that guarantees social progress for all employees.


If, after the Council of Ministers of May 28, the government still refuses to listen to the demands expressed by the demonstration of the 25 May, and continues with this project, the Federations intend to call a NATIONAL STRIKE FROM 3 JUNE, the responsibility for which will lie with the government,


ASLEF fully supports our sister trade unions in France in their fight against degradation to their pension arrangements and we have written to express our solidarity with their action. In line with this we remind members to respect the position of their French counterparts and observe the general

trade union position on official picket lines and working services normally covered by French crews. However, we have to advise members that they may be in breach of contract by not undertaking the duties required by the employer. In addition if members consider that the arrangements place themselves or the public in “serious or imminent danger” they may absent themselves from work or otherwise take appropriate steps to protect themselves or others.


In particular we would draw to your attention that there is no agreement with Eurostar for banking off days or for accepting payment for off day working under these circumstances; similarly, any member of management who asks members to work off days during the dispute may be in breach of negotiated agreements


The FGTE/CFDT make the following call on their members to take action:(copy provided by CFDT)


“The pension reforms, concocted by the government concern all employees, private and public sector alike. For a long time, the Public office and Ministers for Labour explained that the purpose of the reform was only to align the mode of civil servants to that of the private sector. They forgot to specify that it is the Balladur reform of 1993 (40 annual instalments of contributions instead of 37.5; calculation over 25 years instead of 10; indexing pensions to prices instead of the wages) which broke the balance of public-private sector pensions.


Today, the truth came out. After the alignment of civil servants' contributions in 40 annual instalments by 2008, all employees will experience further degradation:


- Whereas the actual career length of employees shortens considering the risks of the labour market, the government decided to increase the duration of contributions necessary to achieve retirement at full rate to 41 years in 2012 and 42 years in 2020,


- Whereas previously private sector pensions were calculated over the 10 best years and today over the 20 best, the government wants, from 2008, to calculate them over the 25 best years, as envisaged by the Balladur reform.


- Whereas the private sector pension was still calculated in proportion to 150 quarters, the government decided that it would now be calculated over 160 quarters.


A real social regression Together with these measurements will involve a fall in pensions of 20 % in 2008 and 30 % in 2020, compared to the mode of calculation from before the Balladur reform of 1993.


Employees work later and later. The company owners drive out of work once they pass about the age of fifty. It will be increasingly difficult to have a complete career. Retirement at 60 years at full rate will become increasingly impossible to reach.


Employees having started work aged under 18 and those having carried out heavy work do not obtain sufficient guarantees.


Many employees will hesitate to take retirement under these conditions. Will it be necessary to resume work after 60 years to supplement pensions? This is absurd and unacceptable!


Moreover, the state, will it continue to ensure financing half of the CFA whilst it plans to remove the devices for early retirement everywhere else? 




To oppose this social regression and to require a positive reform of pensions, FGTE/CFDT invites you to cease work and to express in various forms your trade-union solidarity, in unity with the public-private sectors


This action has already caused the government to make its first retreat:


The 10 % reduction for missing annual instalments will be reduced to 5 % from 2008.


It is now necessary to reinforce the pressure to obtain new concessions.


Together, let us continue to call for:


- a high level of pension for all (100 % for the wages with the SMIC, 80 % for wages of 1500 have ros Net, 70 % for wages of 3000 have ros Net),


- Full retirement at 60 years, which implies the refusal of any lengthening of the duration of contribution which would prevent genuine exercise of this right,


- Early retirement, before 60 years, for employees who have completed 40 annual instalments, and for those who undertook heavy or demanding work,


- questioning of the Balladur reform and its mechanisms which organise the regression of the pensions,


- Augmentation of the finances necessary to ensure a good level of income for pensioners as their number will increase. 



FGTE/CFDT invites you to act

to defend your future and that of your children.”








First and foremost picketing is a fundamental tenet of trade unionism and the only purpose of a picket is to stop people from crossing it. The law, as you would expect, has been forged by a succession of judges and governments to prevent picketing from being effective.


More recently it was the Tories who fashioned the law in the eighties to undermine us. It has yet to be changed to provide a meaningful right to working people.


There is a right to picket still under the law. As the leading publication on the law in this field states: “the whole point of picketing is to persuade other workers not to work and to persuade traders not to trade, and moreover to stop them working or trading at once.” There are restrictions under the law which make the right to picket ineffectual in many circumstances. The perspective to consider here is that of the individual who does not cross. Legally, it has to remain a matter of individual conscience. Of course, the law gives rights to individuals in this way to undermine the collective.


The courts have had difficulty deciding when an employee is participating in a strike. In one case (McCormick v Horsepower Ltd [1981]) a fitter's mate, who was not in dispute with the employer and who worked in a separate department from the boilermakers, who were on strike, refused to cross the picket line established by the boilermakers. As a result he stayed away from work for some time. The Court of Appeal, said that the fitter's mate had not agreed with any other person to take industrial action, nor was he part of any collectivity which was under an obligation to take such action. However, another judge has said (in Coates and Venables v Modern Methods and Materials Ltd [1982]): “when the employee's absence from work is due to the existence of the strike

in some respect, because he or she chooses not to go to work during the strike, then I think that the employee should be regarded as taking part in the strike”.


Despite technically being in breach of contract for not attending work, I am not aware of ASLEF members being dismissed for respecting the picket line of another group of workers. We also know that we will set up a picket line somewhere in the future, which we would hope others would respect.


Serious and Imminent Danger


Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, as amended, employees have the right not to be dismissed, selected for redundancy or subjected to any detriment on the following grounds: -


The employee left, or proposed to leave, or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to his or her place of work, or any dangerous part of it, in circumstances of danger which he or she reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, and which the employee could not reasonably have been expected to avert


The employee took, or proposed to take “appropriate steps” to protect himself or herself or other persons in circumstances of danger which he or she reasonably believed to be serious and imminent.


This is explained in “Harvey on Industrial Relations and Employment Law” that:


“…(in) the case of the employee who believes himself to be in serious and imminent danger and who on that account quits work. The employee's belief must be both genuine and reasonable. If he cannot reasonably

avert the danger, then he is entitled betake himself out of harms way. The employer must not victimise him for leaving the area of danger, or for proposing to leave it, or for refusing to return while the danger lasted.”


Case law has established that an employee's reasonable concerns may also cover serious and imminent danger affecting members of the public.



Yours fraternally



General Secretary

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