France: Tower occupation set to win migrant workers their right to stay

A stunning victory for migrant workers could be on the cards following a two-week occupation of Semmaris Tower in Paris by 105 people demanding they and 23 other comrades be regularised and given full rights at work.

The sans-papiers (lacking ID papers), who are organised with section 94 of the CGT union, have been holed up on the ground floor at Rungis market in the Chevilly-Larue commune Since March 13 in protest at the failure of authorities to deal with their claims for legal regularisation.

Many of the occupiers have spent years in the country with no way of negotiating or enforcing their rights at work, due to their gray area legal status.

Talking to La Parisien, Mamadou, from Mali, said: “I arrived in France in 2009 and have been working for MIN for seven years — for me everything is ready, I do not know what is blocking (regularisation).”

But within days of the occupation and amid mounting public pressure, representatives of the local prefect have now said the workers’ applications will be dealt with “as quickly as possible.”

The group has been working under the auspices of MIN, a State-owned food wholesaler, which is thought to employ up to 600 sans-papiers and has taken advantage of their precarious legal position to block negotiations over pay and working schedules. Staff are working in everything from cleaning to food prep and caretaking. A CGT union rep said:

They work in sectors where they are indispensable. They pay their taxes, they contribute but have no rights. The CGT does not want workers without rights and it knows, as in the struggle for gender equality, that earning rights for those worst-off means raising the bar for all.

The strike picket will be lifted only with the issuance of the employer documents required for regularisation, as well as a temporary receipt issued by the Prefecture, opening a one-year residence card for each of these workers.

A new step was made Wednesday, March 22th to start the process of regularisation. CGT 94, its collective migrant workers and the broader union will take stock of the evolution of the process and hold a press conference on Monday March 27th, at 11 am.

Precarious working for sans-papiers has been worsened over the last year by the implementation of new changes to French immigration law,  which has made the use of an “alias” an imprisonable offence and toughened the process for obtaining one-year residence permits.

 

 


Pictured: The Semmaris Tower on Rue de La Tour, and a CGT94 banner supporting the Sans Papier occupiers