Anti-worker measures: let's fight back – and the sooner the better

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
31 July 2017

The government has decided to cut down the monthly housing allowance (APL[1]) by five euros. 90% of the APL go to the poorest 30% of households, who will thus be robbed of 400 million euros a year. This "trimming" is a disgrace and yet another episode in the war Macron and Philippe have been waging against workers since they came to power.

The nationalization of STX shipyards in Saint-Nazaire has also made the headlines. To justify the government's intervention, Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire said it was “neither a right-wing nor a left-wing decision, but a decision for France”. The FN, the Right, the Left and France Insoumise all hailed the announcement. But that doesn't mean workers should feel reassured. Rival bourgeois politicians are quick to speak with one voice when it comes to mystifying workers.

There is no guarantee that the 7,300 direct and indirect STX jobs will be preserved. In fact, Le Maire has largely insisted on the "temporary" nature of the purported nationalization, which appears as a cheap communication trick used by Macron to boost his image.

The French and Italian governments are negotiating and the measure taken by the former is only one element in the transaction. Both governments couldn't care less for the workers. Their main preoccupation is the defense of the industrial groups they represent. Macron isn't the protector of shipyard workers. He sees them merely as profit fodder for capital owners! He recently demonstrated which side he is on when he refused to lift a finger for the 277 workers about to lose their jobs at GM&S.

The government is also preparing its reform of the Labor Code, the detailed content of which will be revealed only at the end of August. As for the executive orders that will make the reform effective, they will be published at the end of September. However, the framework law has already been adopted by Parliament and the little information that has leaked so far leaves no doubt: it will be a frontal attack on workers.

Labor Minister Muriel Pénicaud, a former HR manager at Danone who got a one-million-euro bonus in 2013 for suppressing 900 jobs, is also fluent in BossSpeak. According to her, "our social model is obsolete”! The aim of her law is to make a clean sweep of the few elements of the Labor Code that employers are still annoyed with.

Working hours, wage levels, overtime pay: these issues will be discussed at company level. The government wants to get rid of the measures imposed by workers' past struggles because they united them. It wants to replace them with company or branch agreements. It also wants to facilitate collective and individual lay-offs. The law will contain an "employer-friendly" form that will make it easier for a boss to lay off people. As for the forms to be filled by workers who would like to lodge a compaint before a labor court, they have recently become much more complex—to better discourage workers.

The government wants to carry out its offensive as soon as possible. It knows that no parliamentary opposition can delay it and hopes that the working class will not react. No union leadership has responded as they should have to this declaration of war. Not a single one has exposed the government's plans from the outset. They all attended the meetings organized by the Minister of Labor. CGT officials have played their part in this comedy, but they have also issued a call for a national day of mobilization on Tuesday, September 12. Solidaires and some Force Ouvrière (FO) regional branches and federations will participate.

September 12 must become a rallying point for workers who want to protest against the attacks waged by the bosses and the government. Let us show that there are women and men who refuse to surrender.

[1]          APL (Aide personnalisée au logement): introduced in 1977, the APL is a financial aid to help reduce the rent or mortgage amount for accommodation. It is paid directly to the owner or the mortgage company.