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Manipulated meters and the supply of homes with electricity cuts: this is how “Robin Hood” protests in France

The French government’s project to reform the pension system is being opposed on two fronts: on the one hand, a large mobilization on the days designated by the eight main unions – last Thursday -; On the other hand, in parliamentary debates.

But, in addition, alternative routes have emerged in different parts of the country. In recent weeks, small groups of trade unionists in the energy sector of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) have called for Robin Hood actions to benefit public institutions, small businesses and low-income households in the context of rising energy prices. Electricity, meter manipulation or restoration of supply to homes that have been disconnected for non-payment.

According to them, the aim is to “positively” express the trade union’s opposition to the project of the executive power, which includes postponing the retirement age to 64 years. In a statement, the CGT’s mining and energy branch explained: “Electricity or gas from various hospitals and clinics, municipal swimming pools, skating rinks and other public sports centers, public interest associations, libraries, educational institutions, secondary schools, nurseries, collective heating systems . Low-income housing, public lighting of small and medium-sized municipalities and social housing were provided free of charge in universities.

For example, on the second day of the mobilization, on January 24, CGT members manipulated electricity meters in several bakeries in Marseille to introduce a reduced tariff that would reduce costs by “50% or 60%”. One of their leaders. A gesture of solidarity with a group that demonstrated in the capital the day before, particularly hit by rising energy prices – and which is asking the government to freeze tariffs for the sector.

“We have the technical possibility to reduce the bakers’ energy bill without endangering property or people,” Marseille CGT-Energies general secretary Renaud Henri told TV channel TF1. “It’s completely illegal, but it’s also completely moral for us.

The gesture was applauded by French Disobedience leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and French Communist Party (PCF) leader Fabien Roussel. “CGT Energía is more effective than the government in helping bakers. Bravo to the Robin Hood of electricity,” the PCF General Secretary tweeted.

In parallel with the mobilization indicated by the union, which represents a united front against the government under the leadership of Elizabeth Bourne, workers in the energy sector are multiplying these initiatives to, they say, “increase the pressure” in the struggle. Against the pension reform as an additional element to the demonstrations held in cities across the country. In the last days of the strike, they announced similar actions in the Paris region, as well as “in Lille, Nantes, Lyon, Nice, Marseille or Saint-Nazaire”.

This also includes restoration of electricity to homes that have been cut off due to non-payment. “During this strike, we are going to try to restore electricity or gas to as many customers as possible who may be left out,” said Fabris Cadour, the federal secretary of the FNME-CGT.

For example, several energy unions in and around the city of Vienne – calling themselves the “Robins des bois de l’énergie de la Vienne” – on Monday called for the “restoration of the many families who have been deprived of electricity or gas due to unpaid bills or termination of contracts. Unscrupulous energy by suppliers,” as reported by La Nouvelle République, which notes that more than 50 homes will be affected by the action.

On Tuesday, February 7, during the mobilization, members of the Gas and Electricity CGT of Béarn and Bigorre (in the Pyrenees region) carried out an operation to remove electricity meters in three hospitals and a nursing home in the city of Pau. It was decided the day before at the general meeting of the union.

It is difficult to know exactly the scale of the actions or the number of victims. Partly because unions can’t divulge too much information to avoid possible legal retaliation. In fact, this type of action has been taking place, to a lesser extent, since at least 2004, when trade unions began to protest against changes in the charter of the public company EDF-GDF, which then opened its capital to private investors.

“Every day, some agents carry out this kind of ‘Robin Hood’ action, but there are many more during the mobilization,” CGT Mines-Energy Secretary General Fabrice Cadour told Mediapart. “And we’re going to continue to show them that we control the production tool all the way through.”

Several members of the government responded to these actions. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire called them “unacceptable”. “In France, CGT does not decide the rates or who should pay what. This is the state, this is the common interest, this is the French people through their representatives,” he said in an interview with the Europe 1 radio station.

Along the same lines, Transitional Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said it was an illegal “intimidation” strategy and called on the power companies to sue the power cut threats by some union members.

During the first mobilization, on January 19, there were voltage drops and controlled power outages in various areas. The CGT has warned in previous days of cuts aimed at municipalities in elected positions favorable to reform. Emmanuel Macron’s party (Renaissance) deputy from the department of Lot, Huguet Tiena, condemned the blackout in his office for several hours. Last week, the trade unionists cut off the electricity in Pau City Hall.

In the Lot-et-Garonne region, the CGT announced it had disabled four traffic cameras and removed SIM cards from more than a hundred concentrators – devices for capturing and storing energy – by isolating the meters. The union clarified that the SIM cards were “mailed” to the Prime Minister, Elizabeth Bourne.

CGT has announced plans to step up power cuts and rate cuts in the coming weeks. In front of the microphones of RTL, the general secretary of the CGT, Filipe Martínez, went further and suggested the possibility of power cuts to some big businessmen, pointing in particular to the owner of several conservative media outlets, Vincent Bolloré. “We’re going to have billionaires living for a few hours, a few days, in homes with unstable energy, who have no choice when the power goes out.

Source: El Diario





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