A government at war with workers

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
26 June 2017

The electoral circus has folded up. The ballot boxes have been put away and Macron’s new government is getting ready to do what the bourgeoisie expects it to do: launch an attack on the workers.

Macron has concentrated on two symbolic measures: the bill on ethical standards in public life and the reform of the labor code.

The first measure was just for show. Macron wanted to impress by playing the role of the Mister Clean of French politics. But his whole communication scheme was compromised by recent revelations about Richard Ferrand’s real estate irregularities and the fake jobs in the Democratic Movement of François Bayrou who, until a week ago, was justice minister in charge of promoting the draft law to clean up politics. Capital owners would no doubt like to be served by disinterested political staff but they create politicians who are as greedy as they are.

The second measure is much more serious. The labor code reform concerns millions of workers and is a declaration of war against the working class

The government wants to toughen up the El Khomri law. It wants to give the bosses more room to make their own laws in the workplace; to allow multinationals to fire workers in a subsidiary as they please, even if the group is making outrageous profits; to cap the monetary compensation that a worker can obtain for wrongful lay-off and reduce the time period during which a lay-off can be legally challenged.

This week, there will be the presentation of a bill allowing the executive to reform the labor code by decrees. In July, Parliament will approve the bill. In September, the decrees will be applied. So the details will only be known at the precise moment that the decrees are applied.

What new powers will the bosses have in the workplace? Will they be allowed to bypass branch agreements? Site contracts already exist in the construction industry and are, in fact, short-term contracts with no job risk allowance and sometimes without insurance. Will they become the norm in other sectors? We might well have to wait until September to find out.

The government is keeping quiet about the extent of the loss of social rights because it doesn’t want to upset the union leaders and risk causing the workers to fight back. For the time being, union leaders are playing a regrettable wait-and-see game. The labor minister—a former HR top manager—has repeatedly invited them to sit down and chat while the government prepares its executive decrees.

Many workers and union activists understand what is going on and know that they will need to fight back. Some regional or departmental union leaderships are calling for demonstrations to speak out against the government’s project—for instance on June 27 outside Parliament. But these demonstrations are not coordinated, they are called in different sectors, on different days. The workers need to act collectively and have a mobilization schedule.

Macron wants to act quickly and attack during the summer holiday period. But that’s not all: he wants to pledge his loyalty to the bourgeoisie. He wants to show them that he is not just an illusionist capable of getting himself elected but that he is also one of their strong men who can force workers to accept sacrifices without triggering strong waves of discontent.

The ongoing economic crisis means that bosses are greedier and the government more arrogant than ever. If we want our wages, working and living conditions to stop deteriorating, we must fight back with the weapons of the workers, our class weapons: strikes and demonstrations.

The government wants to keep us apart, to limit us to our own workplace. But it has declared war on all workers, so victory against the government and the big bosses can only come from ttruggles spreading from plant to plant, from industry to industry and culminating with the mobilization of the entire working class for its collective interests.

This is the only rational conclusion you can come to, unless you believe in fairy stories for workers.