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France’s CGT union elects first woman as chief amid protests

Sophie Binet emerged as a surprise candidate after others were rejected
Sophie Binet emerged as a surprise candidate after others were rejected - Copyright AFP/File Munir uz Zaman
Sophie Binet emerged as a surprise candidate after others were rejected - Copyright AFP/File Munir uz Zaman

France’s CGT trade union federation on Friday elected surprise candidate Sophie Binet as secretary general, making her the first woman to hold the post since the body’s creation in 1895, senior members told AFP.

The head of a member union representing middle managers, Binet’s election means incumbent Philippe Martinez has failed to impose a successor despite months on the front lines of the ongoing protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.

Her name emerged from overnight wrangling after his chosen candidate, Marie Buisson, failed to gather enough votes in the union’s executive committee.

Born in 1982, Binet, a former school administrator, has led the UGICT union since 2018 and worked at the CGT on environment issues and gender equality.

She will have an uphill battle to re-knit the federation together.

Martinez has faced criticism from CGT hardliners, including for his alliance in the retirement battle with the more moderate CFDT — currently France’s largest union federation by membership.

Powerful member unions including railway, energy and chemical workers found fault with his leadership.

Binet’s election comes days before union leaders are slated to meet Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, whose move to ram Macron’s pension reforms through parliament without a vote has ratcheted up tensions.

The government insists there is no further discussion to be had on pensions, while the CGT has joined other unions in calling for a pause before the new law is applied and a “mediation” between worker representatives and government.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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