53rd congress of the CGT: who will succeed Philippe Martinez at the head of the union?

The photo shows the strike of the French Federation of Trade Unions and the clash with the police near Nantes © Reuters Photo

Text by: Myriam Berber

3 min

In a context of exceptional mobilization against the pension reform, the 27rd congress of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) is being held from 31 to 53 March in Clermont-Ferrand (Auvergne). It will appoint the successor of its Secretary General, Philippe Martinez. For the first time since the union was founded in 1895, a woman could take over the leadership. Members will choose between Marie Buisson, candidate supported by the incumbent, and her competitor, Céline Verzeletti.


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Marie Buisson is the current national secretary of the small federation of Education, Research and Culture of the CGT. Despite the support of Philippe Martinez, it has still not managed to impose itself. The 55-year-old teacher, daughter of executives, is a determined activist but little known to the general public.

This candidate, who wants better management of environmental issues and gender equality, is not unanimous within the CGT. These opponents reproach him for his discretion and especially for not having led emblematic struggles.

► Read also: Marie Buisson (CGT): we will "raise the balance of power to push back the government"

He is also accused of having represented the CGT in the collective "Never again" which brings together unions, NGOs such as Greenpeace and associations, on environmental issues. Several large industrial federations do not agree with the orientations of this collective, especially on the exit of nuclear power, likely to threaten thousands of jobs.

Women's duel

Marie Buisson will face a woman who has the culture of protest. This is Céline Verzeletti. Both his parents were communist militants and members of the CGT. Another advantage, and not the least: this accustomed to TV sets has the support of the biggest federations of the plant, including railway workers, energy and health.

Also listen: Céline Verzeletti (CGT): "The battle is not over" regarding the pension reform

The 54-year-old former prison guard currently heads the civil service federation. She said she wanted to change the way the CGT operated, so that the general secretary would not have as much power. For many members, Céline Verzeletti would allow a better rally within the CGT.

Towards a new mode of governance within the CGT

Whichever wins, the challenges that await the new boss of the CGT are numerous. The plant, losing ground in the professional elections, has ceded to the CFDT (French Democratic Confederation of Labour) its place as the first union of France. And it is no surprise that the CFDT is now at the head of the social movement against the pension reform in France.

During this congress, which will last nearly a week, the federations of the CGT also want to raise the question of the functioning of the management of the central, and in particular its democratic dimension or not. Philippe Martinez's very solitary mode of governance has often been criticized within the CGT. And for some, it's time to play it collectively.

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  • Unions
  • France