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French unions unite to defend the future of energy

19 November, 2020IndustriALL Global Union’s French energy sector affiliates will come together for a day of action on 26 November 2020 to oppose policies that threaten the future of their sector, and the restructuring plans of the multinational companies EDF and ENGIE. 

French energy multinationals EDF and ENERGIE have announced restructuring plans which unions believe will threaten jobs and the security of the energy supply, and surrender the future of energy to the private sector.

In a joint statement, the French unions stressed the importance of the public service ethic by reminding the company of the dedication and professionalism of staff who maintained the electricity supply throughout the coronavirus lockdown. The statement called the forced liberalization of the electricity market “madness”, saying that the French government risks destroying a formidable asset.

The four unions - FNME-CGT, CFE-CGC Énergies, FCE-CFDT and FO Énergies et Mines - believe that plans for the unbundling and privatization of renewables shows a lack of commitment to energy futures at a time when the state should be playing a leading role in managing a Just Transition to a low carbon future. This future must include quality jobs as well as a reliable supply of energy.

The unions are united in their opposition to the restructuring plans, which will affect not only workers and the public in France, but company employees around the world. IndustriALL has global framework agreements with both companies. The unions expressed their concerns about jobs, and that the companies will lose their leading role in driving the energy transition by surrendering energy futures to the market.

EDF is a largely state-owned company that employs 165,000 people around the world. Unions are fighting French government plans to restructure and partly privatize the company. The government plans to split EDF into three separate entities, named green, blue and azure. The less profitable blue part of the company will remain in the public sector, while the green part, which includes renewables, will be a listed on the stock exchange. A third part, azure, will cover hydroelectricity.

ENGIE is a private company that employs around 70,000 people globally. The French state is the biggest shareholder, with almost a quarter of the company’s stock, and is very influential. The company plans to split into two entities, New ENGIE and NEW Solutions.

The unions will take a joint day of action on 26 November to oppose the restructuring and defend the public sector model.

In a solidarity letter to the affiliates, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said:

“Energy is a public good and a strategic sector. There can be no strong and sustainable economy without energy independence and infrastructure development. Splitting the energy activities of large integrated groups into sub-divisions, such as at EDF and ENGIE, will lead to the progressive dismantling of the energy giants.

“Access to energy, security of supply and favourable energy prices directly contributes to industrial growth and the creation of sustainable jobs. At a time of major energy challenges, when the world must ensure the integrity of its supply while managing a Just Transition to a low-carbon economy, it is unacceptable to endanger the capacities for development, investment and innovation of EDF and ENGIE.”