The government and big business are fighting the class war, we have to fight back

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
10 July 2017

Not a week goes by without the government announcing a new measure against the working class. The latest example concerns the hardship account. Four out of the ten hardship factors have been removed, employers no longer have to pay the increased social contributions and it is called the prevention account. The original system was a small concession Hollande made when he increased the number of working years necessary to receive a full pension. Even that was too much for the bosses.

But in the war the government is waging against the world of labor, this attack is not as significant as the new Labor Bill presented to Parliament this week. It aims to undermine the Labor Code and erase all traces of what was achieved by more than one hundred years of workers' struggles.

Employers will literally dictate their own terms, imposing the working hours and wages that they decide. The government says that these corporate agreements will come from social dialog. But we know what that means: “If you don’t like it, you can leave!”. And because the law will change the procedures for individual and collective layoffs, bosses will have even more freedom to sack workers.

Collective agreements at branch level will authorize “mission contracts” which allow bosses to get rid of employees once their mission is over, without having to pay compensation. Branch agreements will make it possible to increase the number of times a fixed-term contract can be renewed and compensation in the case of an unfair dismissal will be capped.

And the offensive won’t stop there. Prime Minister Philippe has confirmed the increase of the “General Social Contribution” (CSG) by 1.7%. He claims that, in the private sector, a reduction in workers’ social security contributions will compensate for this increase. That seems doubtful. And for public servants and pensioners who earn more than 1,200 euros per month, this means a decline in purchasing power.

While the government prepares its laws, employers continue their attacks.

Last week, the workers at GM&S blocked a Peugeot foundry in Central France. The proposed takeover of the plant would mean the layoff of 157 employees out of 277. The workers wanted to put pressure on the prime contractors, Renault and Peugeot and also on the State, a shareholder in both groups. Their determination forced the Minister of Economy to invite them for talks and their mobilization was covered by the media. But how many other factories are closing down because shareholders find it profitable to cut jobs and rely on fewer employees to do the work? There are plans to cut jobs in large groups such as Michelin—2,000 jobs will be cut worldwide, 1,500 of them in France.

On top of all this, capitalists are resorting to repression with the class-based support of the judiciary system. Trade-union activists at Peugeot are under threat—one delegate was even sentenced to a six-month suspended prison sentence. Why? Because they refuse to bow their heads. This is the class struggle Macron says no longer exists—a struggle which allows the capitalist class to get richer. The shareholders in France’s benchmark stock market index companies were paid 46 billion euros in dividends in 2016.

If we don't want to be crushed, we have no choice but to fight collectively against the bosses' attacks and against the new Labor Bill. For now, the negotiating game continues and all the union leaders are playing along. The CFDT and FO leaders are clearly accomplices of the government. As for the CGT leaders, like the others they claim to be open and ready to make constructive propositions. But, at the same time, they have called for a strike on September 12. This is an opportunity to be seized.

A single day of action will not be enough to make employers and the government back down. Only powerful worker mobilization can block the Labor Bill which will be adopted in Parliament by the Macronite majority.

We must use the opportunity of every collective reaction to express the need for a generalized and explosive working-class fight.