Waking up at 5 am, meetings and calls: how the government survived the March 7 strike

The future belongs to those who get up early, but when you wake up at five in the morning, you can rightly think, with half-closed eyes, that this is also the beginning of problems. It’s still dark, Clément Beaune’s phone is ringing on the bedside table. We solemnly appeal to the Minister of Transport: the trade unions of the Hauts-de-France trucking companies ask that we be able to tow them calmly, in other words, without fear of the police, who also began their day long ago. To tow, not block, we assure the Minister to persuade him. Request accepted… even if the protesters finish, a little later, still blocking.

France is not yet worth being paralyzed, “stopped” by promises. The unions relied heavily on the March 7 mobilization against the pension reform to sway the executive branch. “You shouldn’t scream until you feel pain,” Labor Minister Olivier Dussaud told Franceinfo on Monday morning. On Tuesday evening, the members of the government not only did not howl in pain, but breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing is broken.

Black Tuesday, but life goes on: nothing changes on the presidential agenda. Returning from a trip to Africa, Emmanuel Macron meets at 10 a.m. at the Elysee Palace with part of his government team for a meeting on the Neighborhood 2030 plan. Around him and Elisabeth Born: Minister of Urban and Housing Olivier Klein, of course, but also Gérald Darmanin, Olivier Dusso, Stanislas Guerini, François Brown, Christophe Bechu, Rima Abdul-Malak, Olivia Grégoire… a few words to these ten ministers about the streets of Paris and urban centers that are beginning to be vilified by demonstrators? “Absolutely not,” say several participants. “Not a word about it, he got into a difficult environment, not deviating from it,” adds one of them.

Since noon, the Minister of Civil Service, Stanislas Guerini, has been receiving data from the Directorate General for Administration and Civil Service (DGAFP) on the number of strikers in the various sectors it covers. As soon as these figures are compiled, he hastens to communicate them to the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister. The first source of satisfaction for the executive branch: “The number of strikers in the civil service has decreased compared to January 19, it is clear that this is not a mobilization of the same nature as in 2019, this is not the level of the Fillon reform strike,” Guerini breathes.

3:00 p.m.: While the deputies ask their first questions to the government at the Palais Bourbon, Gabriel Attal takes a pew at the Palais Luxembourg to consider reform in the Senate. Continuing his insulting message for several days, the Minister for Action and Public Accounts pays tribute to “the tens of millions of French people who make the country go round” and reprimands those who want to bring “the country’s economy to its knees” – comments live on BMFTV.

Within the executive branch, the level of information fluctuates. At the Assembly, ministers follow the day with their eyes on their smartphones. “Of course, we are attentive to what is happening, but this is not super-dramatic anxiety,” one of them jokes. The level of awareness fluctuates depending on the degree of involvement in the reform: someone communicates with familiar prefects in order to monitor the situation in such and such a territory; Olivier Dussaud receives information through the channels of his ministry and exchanges with his great friend, Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, information on the state of traffic jams and floods that we are seeing on the streets of Paris. In his fortress of Annone in the Ardèche, which became the nerve center of the mobilization in the region, about 2,000 houses were cut off by the CGT. “The day I’m gone is not good,” whispers the labor secretary, who laments that high schools are forced to send students home due to lack of lights and canteens. “It’s disgusting,” his colleague Stanislas Guerini later responded to RTL.

Others are in the kiln and mill, like Clément Bon and Agnès Pannier-Runachet from Energy. The crisis center at the Ministry of Ecological Transition, where we see their office at the table, the General Directorate of Civil Security and Crisis Management, representatives of SNCF, RATP, ports and roads, gives them a score four times a day. The transport minister, who lives with the TV on, made about sixty phone calls throughout the day, staying in constant contact with SNCF boss Jean-Pierre Farandou, RATP Jean Castex and ADP Augustin de Romanette.

As a result, the numbers are falling: 1.28 million Frenchmen took to the asphalt according to the Ministry of the Interior (against 1.27 million five weeks earlier), 3.5 million according to the CGT. This is not Black Tuesday, this is Gray Tuesday, we are making noise in the corridors of ministries. “Very high, but it’s not a tidal wave,” slips the pillar of government. “We can clearly see that this is a strong mobilization: three days with over a million people on the streets and more and more people in the provinces, it would be a mistake to say that this is a failure. , this is not a blockade of the country,” said another minister. “In short, the mobilized remain mobilized. The Senate continues its work … And the Assembly its circus,” concludes the third part at the beginning of the evening, aimed not only at Nüpe, but also at the minister of Justice Eric Dupont-Moretti and his two “arms of honor” towards the boss of the LR deputies, Olivier Marlet. The Keeper of the Seals apologized, but at a time when the right is forcing the Senate and when we doubt his credibility in the Bourbon Palace to vote for the reform, in the majority we could do without this blow, temporary allies of the government.

On Tuesday evening, the key word on the part of the government was “stability” but also caution. The executive power, counting on the breathlessness of the protest movement after its text has been passed in a single joint commission and a solemn vote in the National Assembly, is waiting for what the “rate of decline” of mobilizations will be. “The real question was not on March 7, but in the stability or not of the stability of the movement on the street, especially after passing the examination of the text in the Senate,” explains the member of the government. Until then, negotiations with the right in the Assembly and the Senate remain tense, because there is no better way to revive the inter-alliance and offend the French than to go through Article 49.3 …

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