LETTER: Labour fails French strikers

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The Independent Online
From Mr Walter Cairns

Sir: As someone who has just returned from France, I was interested to read Tony Barber's perceptive analysis of the current industrial unrest there and its significance for the future of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) ("The battle for Europe's future", 6 December).

During my stay, I was particularly struck by the bitterness experienced by the strikers against a government that is prepared to sacrifice the social consensus, based on what has hitherto been very generous welfare provision, on the altar of EMU - the benefits of which they were very unsure about.

I did, however, feel extremely embarrassed when I was asked whether they could count on the support of the British Labour and Trade Union movement. I had to reply very evasively in view of the deafening silence that has emanated from John Smith House on this issue.

In view of the fact that the French Trade Union movement is currently waging a fight that is much more general in its scope than the safeguarding of its members, social security rights - to wit, the whole future of the welfare state in Europe - I find this Trappist monk approach quite astounding. Cynics might conclude that the Labour Party is so frightened of losing its respectability at home that it will not even support the justified demands of its comrades elsewhere in Europe.

Yours sincerely,

Walter Cairns


6 December