In Marseille, the elections of the territorial public service on a business background

Banners “Rebel Force”, playing with the union logo, are enthroned on the railings. The portable sound system crackles. The table of « buffet convivial » is erected. Thursday 1is December, in bitter cold, the bosses of the “Territorial” section of Force Ouvrière (FO) begin, in one of the depots of the Aix-Marseille Provence metropolis (AMP) in Marseille (11e), their general meeting of the “cleaning service”. In front of them, about fifty agents beat the sole in hoods, down jackets and, for some, fluorescent vests of the community. Most are members of the union which, for nearly fifty years, has dominated the polls in the Marseille territorial public service. This morning, in this service where FO is in the majority, the rounds have been shortened so that everyone can attend the meeting.

Four years after an election that saw its historical omnipotence crack, FO is playing big. He intends to preserve his leadership both at AMP (38% of the votes for 8,000 agents) and at the city of Marseille (43.6% for 11,000 civil servants). In metropolitan France, the ballot will be held on December 8. In the city, it started on 1is December, organized for the first time and over seven days in an electronic version.

“This system can lead to an overrepresentation of administrative staff and a decline of field agents put off by a procedure they do not master”, already worries the indestructible secretary general of FO Territorial, Patrick Rué, 68, good-natured and rolling voice. The man has been retired from public service since 1is January, but was re-elected to his position by his troops until 2024. “The only ones who want me to go are our adversaries,” smiles this former pruner who, in the eyes of the other unions, still symbolizes the existence of a “co-management” of FO with the local authorities.

Hiring for pay

In the political field, however, the landscape of 2022 has nothing to do with that of 2018. These elections in the territorial public service are the first since the end of the Jean-Claude Gaudin era (Les Républicains) and the arrival at the town hall of Printemps Marseille, a left-wing, environmentalist and citizen coalition, in 2020. “Nobody knows what will come out of the ballot box”, recognizes Olivia Fortin, assistant for the modernization of the municipal administration, who says she only hopes “the greatest possible participation”.

In the city as in the metropolis, the question of a collapse of the FO bastion comes up like every election. The union did not grow out of the last “garbage can strike” at the end of 2021. It tried to negotiate a way out of the crisis on its own, refused by the base of the agents. This failure has now earned him a certain mistrust of the elected representatives of the metropolitan majority of President Martine Vassal (various right). In Marseille, he signed – like the UNSA and the CFTC-CFE-CGC – the municipal protocol aimed at controlling the right to strike of school officials. A decree that the FSU, the CGT and the CFDT had broken, in October 2022, by the administrative court of Marseille. These two setbacks instill doubt in the agents and are worth to the FO posters to be sometimes degraded in the depots. A first.

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