Rising prices call for higher wages and pensions

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
February 7, 2022

The 40 richest companies on the French stock market made an estimated 137 billion-euro profit in 2021: 15 billion for TotalEnergies, 12 billion for both the luxury goods company LVMH and car manufacturer Stellantis, 8 billion each for the bank BNP Paribas and pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. Bosses in the energy, luxury, automotive and banking industries have hit the jackpot!

In the upper spheres of society, shareholders are rolling in money and 300 000 euro handbags, luxury cars and yachts are selling like crazy. At the bottom, millions of wage-earners, unemployed workers and pensioners have to count each euro in order to buy food, heat their homes and pay for transportation. How many households turn the heat down to save 40 or 50 euros on their energy bills? How many don’t eat meat because they can’t afford it? How many only fill their gas tanks a quarter or half full so they won’t be too much in the red?

The official inflation rate is 2.9% per year. And it keeps going up every month. This is just the beginning, too, because the hike in prices is being orchestrated by major energy companies that are already anticipating their transition to other sources of energy. By hiking prices at every stage in the production chain, the capitalist class makes consumers pay now for future investments.

But not all consumers are impacted in the same way. For working-class households, most of the budget goes towards paying for rent, heating and food. For them, the real inflation rate is actually much higher. Energy prices have gone up 20% in one year. The price of fruits and vegetables has gone up 6.7%. Even the price of pasta has gone up 20%-50% depending on the brand, and lowerpriced brands have gone up the most! In low­income housing, providers have increased utilities by 30 to 40 euros per month, which is a huge amount when you live on the minimum old­age pension or welfare benefits.

Caregivers, workers, employees, delivery men and women, those who make everything in society and keep it running, frontline workers who do all the dirty work and on whom the functioning of society depends cannot live decently on their wages. That’s why, in many different companies, workers are fighting for better wages. They are absolutely right to do so and we all must join in and fight together for more pay!

The bosses and government refuse to increase wages but they also fear a massive outburst of anger and protests. They are trying to fool us with bonuses and the supposed freezing of energy prices. But workers aren’t asking for handouts, they are asking for what is rightfully theirs.

As for the presidential candidates, Mélenchon has promised to increase minimum wage to... 1,400 euros. Le Pen wants to “make work pay” but she’s promising to lower the bosses’ social insurance contributions as an incentive for them to increase wages. Pécresse hasn’t even waited to be elected, like most politicians do, before making changes under pressure from the bosses’ union. She suggests a 3% wage increase through a reduction in social contributions to retirement funds. In any case, the state will be the one to pay which will result in budget cuts to social security, education and health care. The money they put in our left­hand pocket will have been stolen from the right­hand one.

Wages must be entirely paid for by the bosses out of their profit margins. Who would dare say there isn’t enough money? No salary, no pension should be less than 2,000 euros net per month. With inflation, wages must be indexed on prices.

Some say that’s utopian or unrealistic? Well, it’s the bare minimum needed to pay bills and put food on our plates. Just like the baker who increases the price of bread saying “I don’t have a choice because the price of flour has gone up”, workers don’t have a choice either if they don’t want to fall into poverty.

Small business owners won’t be able to pay? Well, if that’s true let them take action against their contractors, their suppliers or the bankers who are strangling them. Let them make their bank accounts and contracts public so that we can see who owns what!

Workers can only count on themselves to defend their living conditions. Workers have nothing to expect from a change in president. They must be ready to fight the capitalists who suck up all the wealth and waste it on finance and luxury goods, depriving society of the means it needs to function.

I will be the only one in this presidential campaign to affirm all this and my candidacy will allow working-class voters to affirm it with me through their vote.

Nathalie Arthaud