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BY Jim Cosgrove
Alain Deleu is president of the French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC). He has been involved with workers associations for more than 30 years and has served as president of the National Syndicate of Enrolled Christians (SNEC). Deleu is noted for his mediation skills and for always carrying a message of hope to the people. In an interview with the Register, he spoke about unions, unemployment, and work as central to the dignity of man.
How did the CFTC view the recent protests of the unions here?
The occupations that took place in France between December and January were the result of increasing poverty in the country. The estimated number of people on the poverty line is approximately 7 million. The provoking factor was how distribution of social benefits had changed. When the unemployed went to the centers of social welfare benefits, they could no longer receive much needed aid. CFTC always insisted on unity and solidarity among its members. If you look for solutions outside what the workers actually need, they are not solutions.
Was the CFTC involved with these other movements?
The CFTC asked for what it had already asked for at its national conference last October, which is a minimum wage and minimum unemployment benefits.
We also encouraged people to work together and in harmony at a national level to find solutions for both employers and employees.
Some people say that some trade unions and unemployment movements use these actions to serve their own interests rather than the welfare of the unemployed. Do you agree?
We spoke publicly of how we disagreed with the methods adopted by four of the 6,000 associations. What is important is that we move in the direction of employment. Social dialogue in France tends to regress and each day there are more of the differing opinions about how things should be done. The way forward is to be united in the fight against unemployment and our actions and proposals should reflect this.
Do you think that there are many social injustices in France?
Yes, without any doubt. It's through work that man develops his qualities and enters more deeply into a dialogue with others. By depriving man of work you hit at the very heart of his humanity. For this reason, it is necessary for every person in society to have work. Many of the injustices and the cries today are from the very fact that we do not have the capital to create new enterprises. With the current situation of low wages in France, there is the need to look anew at examining and defining a just wage.
How is it possible for you to fight against social injustice?
Our first battle is the battle for employment. The fight against injustice within the work fields is the work of each generation, and of each field. It's not only about trade unions who give a voice to the workers. The fight against injustice has to be both a personal and collective one. It also must deal with the social, political, cultural, and also spiritual dimensions.