July 5, 2021, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA, Translated from French
The health crisis is not over, and while the delta variant threatens, many workers will not be able to take vacations, while others, thrown out of a job, are desperately searching for work. En Marche! (President’s centrist political party) has taken another electoral slap in the face, but the government is keen to get its message across: we will have to work more! Raising the retirement age to 64 is a notable example of this push from the government. Work extra more years while the youth is unemployed? No way!
At the beginning of June, President Macron took a trip to the Southern French Province known as Lot, and tried to pit retirees earning less than 1,000 euros a month against those who earn more… He implied that retirees are the ones who should make sacrifices! Like a parrot, he repeated the line of Presidents before him: “France is one of the countries where people work the least.”
Macron and his ministers have opened the floodgates to hundreds of billions of euros in aid to employers, and in particular to the big capitalist groups: the fortunes of 42 French billionaires have risen from 249 to 420 billion euros in the last year. The financial press observes with bliss the records set by the French stock market, the CAC 40. Macron and his cohort have the audacity to ask the workers to make sacrifices, but not to solve the economic emergency. Instead, the government serves as the mouthpiece of the intensifying offensive of the leading French capitalist companies – Renault, Sanofi, Auchan and Air France.
Their profits don’t fall from the sky
How many layoff plans or hiring freezes that force the employees who are left to work two jobs for one salary? How many employers are taking advantage of the situation to dictate their own laws in order to impose days off, or steal them from us? How many precarious, part-time contracts exist instead of permanent jobs? Even working from home has been another opportunity to pressure employees who aren’t keeping track of their hours, isolated at home.
The same pressure has increased in the public services: whether at the SNCF Railway, the Post Office, in hospitals, or in local government offices. There are no longer any jobs for young people in need, and days off and bonuses have been taken away. The government wants to make workers and those who are less well-off pay the exorbitant cost of the aid they poured out to employers during this crisis by ransacking public services, unemployment insurance and our pensions.
How can they force us to work until we are 64 or to contribute longer to the system? The president of the largest French industry group, the Medef, and his ministers are hesitant: should they make a policy change before or after the presidential elections? The Medef fears an angry workers’ reaction, as during the 2019 strikes that buried the retirement reform proposal, a previous attempt to make working people foot the bill.
Let’s let our anger out of confinement and get organized
They are right to fear us: in June, the employees of Auchan supermarkets faced with over 3,000 layoffs and a pathetic raise, went on strike. Workers at the Paris airports (ADP) have held strikes and demonstrations for a month against job cuts and a 20% income drop. Workers are responding to these attacks in various sectors – the automobile industry, foundries, the SNCF Railway and the local government offices. The next step is to coordinate against the greed of the employers and their government helpers.
Macron is meeting with the main trade union leaders on July 6 in preparation for the return-to-work (the “return-to-work” known as “la rentrée” follows the summer vacation in France). Conference rooms won’t be the arena in which working people will impose their points of view – like taking from profits to increase wages, or mass hiring to share work equally and put an end to unemployment. Instead, the workers’ point of view will prevail through strikes, in the streets. The sooner we protest, the better. As the politician, Bruno Le Maire, said regarding the plan to steal our pensions: “Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.”