ELA supports the strike by trade unions in the French energy sector defending public energy

Feb 10, 2021
In recent weeks, gas and electricity workers in France have been on strike to defend the public ownership of energy. The strike actions were called by the trade union federations from the French energy sector FNME-CGT, CFE-CGC Énergies, FO Energie et Mines and FCE-CFDT.

The strikes are aimed at a set of proposals being presented by the French government to restructure the country’s main national energy company, EDF. Under the title “Hercules Project”, the proposal will divide the national electricity company into three separate organisations, identified by colours. EDF Blue will consist of the company’s nuclear and thermal (gas, coal, etc) energy generation divisions. EDF Gold will include the country’s hydroelectric energy generation. And EDF Green will bring together the renewable energy distribution and generation.

According to the trade unions, the proposed changes would undermine EDF’s capacity to continue operating as an integrated public company; they would jeopardise energy safety and jobs and they would go against the general interest. According to the plan, both EDF Blue and EDF Gold would continue to be public companies, whilst EDF would open up to private investment. A classic example of socialising the costs whilst privatising the profits.

As with public service companies in the energy sector in many countries, EDF is facing important financial problems, mainly due to the neoliberal political measures, apparently aimed at promoting competition and incentivising the growth of renewable energy generation. But, as has been shown by recent work documents from the TUED, these steps cause chaos in the energy sector, introducing an “investor risk” that the governments must mitigate by way of guarantees that assure investment by the private sector. The governments are obliged to subsidise all energy forms in order to guarantee the stability of the supply when faced with the increase in the proposal of variable renewable energy throughout the system: a transfer of public wealth to private hands.

In the case of EDF, an important additional complication arises from the fact that the company is legally obliged to sell 25% of its nuclear electricity production to its competitors at a fixed price, below the market price. The Hercules Project could see this figure raised to 100% within the framework of the proposed restructuring, effectively turning the country’s publicly-owned nuclear energy generation capacity into a cash cow for private investors.

The French Government’s proposal means privatising public assets and moving forward in the liberalisation, but the people who work in the sector are clear that the energy sector must be public and the strike is being very successful. ELA wants to congratulate all the workers who have supported the strike and let them know that we are supporting them in their fight.

Read the solidarity manifesto signed by ELA and other international trade unions HERE