‘Robin Hood’ energy workers in France are re-routing energy away from ‘non-essential’ buildings and providing cheap or free power to public buildings like hospitals, creches and schools.
According to Novara Media reports, members of the trade union General Confederation of Labour (CGT) working in the energy sector have been pursuing militant tactics in order to get government officials to listen to their concerns.
Fabrice Coudour, Federal Secretary in charge of protest action in the CGT Federation for Mines and Energy, told the publication that electricians and gas engineers “can perform technical actions that render electricity free or very cheap to public buildings like hospitals, creches and schools”.
They can cut the power to “those that we judge to be non-essential, like the offices of officials who do not want to hear what is being said in the streets”.
Cost of living crisis
French MPs have reported instances of power to their offices being cut by workers at their local CGT branch.
The protests are often orchestrated at night, mostly by workers who use their own vehicles to avoid identification.
Mathieu Trenel, an electrician and secretary general of CGT Energy in Essonne said the energy is supplied for free or cheap by workers tampering with the meters of certain premises so as to undercount their usage.
Trenel said that in order to “balance public opinion in favour of the energy workers” they offer it cheaply or free “to people in precarious situations such as isolated parents in poor areas or small businesses who are finding it harder and harder to pay their bills due to the rising cost of energy.”
Meanwhile, there have been protests in Paris against French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to force a Bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 through parliament without a vote.
They have disrupted traffic, rubbish collection and university campuses as opponents of the change maintain their resolve to get the government to back down.
Striking sanitation workers blocked a waste collection plant that is home to Europe’s largest incinerator to underline their determination, and university students walked out of lecture halls.
Leaders of the influential CGT union called on people to leave schools, factories, refineries and other work places.
Several groups, including the yellow vest activists who had mounted formidable protests against Mr Macron’s economic policies during his first term, called on the president’s opponents to march on the parliament at 6pm (5pm GMT ) on Friday.
Union leaders are not the only ones angry about Macron’s plan to make French citizens work for two more years before becoming eligible to collect full pensions.
Opposition parties are expected to start procedures later on Friday for a confidence vote in the government led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
The vote would likely take place early next week.
Mr Macron ordered Ms Borne on Thursday to make use of a special constitutional power to push the highly unpopular pension Bill through without a vote in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.
His calculated risk infuriated opposition politicians, many citizens and unions.
Thousands gathered in protest on Thursday at the Place de la Concorde, which faces the National Assembly building.
As night fell, police officers charged the demonstrators in waves to clear the Place.
Small groups then moved through nearby streets in the chic Champs-Elysees neighbourhood, setting street fires.
Similar scenes repeated themselves in numerous other cities, from Rennes and Nantes in eastern France to Lyon and the southern port city of Marseille, where shop windows and bank fronts were smashed, according to French media.