This time there should be no suspense. At the end of its 25th congress, which takes place from Monday May 30 to Friday June 3 in Rouen, Force Ouvrière (FO) will change direction: the outgoing Secretary General, Yves Veyrier, hands over and will be – except for a theater – replaced by Frédéric Souillot, who is close to him. Unknown to the general public, this 54-year-old confederal official is almost certain to win, with a clear lead, against the other candidate, Christian Grolier, the leader of the general federation of FO civil servants. The transfer of power will, in all likelihood, be more serene than the previous one, even if we must expect lively debates between the militants of an organization where multiple sensitivities coexist – from Freemasonry to the left of left.
FO comes a long way. In November 2018, Mr. Veyrier took the reins after a very undecided vote, where he was a short head ahead of Mr. Grolier – already in the running at the time – the third contender, Patrice Clos, being more widely behind . The election took place in a context of crisis, after the revelation of a file of union executives which had forced Pascal Pavageau, then general secretary, to resign less than six months after being designated number one. The confederation was undermined by fratricidal quarrels.
“He mastered his records”
Three and a half years later, the air has become more breathable again. Mr. Veyrier, who was presented at the end of 2018 as having the support of the reformists of his confederation, reduced tensions. “He arrived at his post in conditions that were not easy and he knew how to hold the handle”, recognizes Zaïnil Nizaraly, the leader of the federation of equipment, environment, transport and services.
Many activists also welcome the way in which the outgoing secretary general opposed the project for a universal pension system, supported by Emmanuel Macron during his first five-year term. “He was efficient and played his role perfectly,” says Philippe Grasset, head of the FO finance federation. “He was respectful of the mandate entrusted to him and mastered his files, including in their technical dimensions”, adds Jocelyne Baussant, head of the departmental union of Deux-Sèvres.
Between 2017 and 2021, the representativeness of FO in the private sector was very slightly eroded, but the union maintained its third position, behind the CFDT and the CGT. He was also very active during the negotiation, in 2020, of two national interprofessional agreements on remote activity and occupational health. As summarized by a senior officer of the central, Mr. Veyrier “put the” conf “back on track”, making sure to be firm in the speech and to remain force of proposal.
Mr. Souillot subscribes to this logic in the text he sent internally, a little over a month ago, to formalize his candidacy. He could count on the vote of the reformists, in particular of the powerful federation FO-métaux from which he came, and of some of the Trotskyists. The latter had given their preference to Mr. Grolier in 2018. Today, the head of the federation of civil servants is described as having the support of the anarcho-syndicalists, while they “rolled” for Mr. Clos there are three and a half years. The scores within the organization giving him only a quarter of the votes, it is not excluded that Mr. Grolier will withdraw before the ballot, scheduled for Friday.