Jean-Claude Gaudin

How people power during a bin strike helped end a union's dominance in Marseille

France

A 16-day strike by refuse collectors has just come to an end in the southern French city of Marseille. It was the third such stoppage there in three months and on the surface it was yet another routine dispute involving municipal staff in a city that is no stranger to industrial strife. But in reality the deal struck between the local authority and union officials, which came amid growing anger from local residents at the state of the Mediterranean city's streets, has ended an unwritten and cosy arrangement between City Hall and a favoured trade union that stretches back more than seven decades. Some observers have described the outcome as no less than a “revolution”. Olivier Bertrand explains.

Phone taps that sparked probe into France's former top anti-corruption prosecutor

France— Investigation

Mediapart can reveal the contents of phone taps and two reports by gendarmes that led to serious questions over the conduct of Éliane Houlette, then head of France's anti-corruption prosecution unit the Parquet National Financier (PNF). Those reports led to the Paris prosecutor calling for a preliminary investigation into allegations of “influence peddling”, “collusion” and “breach of confidentiality” concerning Éliane Houlette, who stood down as head of the PNF in June 2019 having been its boss since its creation in 2013. However, though prosecutors eventually opened a preliminary probe in September 2019 for “breach of confidentiality” in an ongoing investigation, progress in this potentially explosive case seems to have ground to a halt. Fabrice Arfi, Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report.

Nice little earner: right-wing French senators get 8,000-euro Christmas 'tip'

France— Investigation

It was their secret. Every Christmas from 2003 to 2014, the venerable senators belonging to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, recently renamed Les Républicains, received a hand-out of around 8,000 euros per person on the quiet, on top of their ample salaries and expenses. It was described by the senators themselves as their annual tip or 'Christmas box'. Now the new chairman of their Senate group has decided to put an end to the practice. Mathilde Mathieu reports on yet another example of the Senate gravy-train, which emerges amid a continuing judicial investigation into suspected money laundering and misuse of public funds by the UMP Senate group.

Dirty old town - the illuminating story of Marseille's dustmen

Culture-Idées

Rubbish collection in Marseille has always been inseparable from local democracy, clientelism and political self-interest, argue the authors of a fascinating book on the history of dustmen in France's biggest Mediterranean city. The writers, one of whom was himself a Marseille dustman for 23 years, reveal how from the 19th century onwards the city has had its own unique way of organising refuse collection, one intimately linked to the power of trade unions and the desire of local politicians to have the backing of the municipal workforce. They also show how Marseille's reputation as not being the cleanest of French cities can trace its roots back to Roman times. Louise Fessard outlines the authors' key themes, followed by extracts from the book itself.