Against the government's anti-working class, let’s mobilise our ranks on September 12

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
August 28, 2017

"France is a country that can’t be reformed," said President Macron recently, adding: "but we’ll do it." What the government and the bosses mean by "reforming" is attacking what remains of the laws that still protect the workers – laws resulting from past struggles. They talk of modernity but it’s a step back in time to exploitation as it existed before those fights.

Governments fight class war on behalf of big business. They use lies like "competitiveness" and "national interest "... as if workers and employers were on the same side. With each new attack and each new "reform", the workers' living conditions get worse while the capitalist class gets richer.

Macron and his government have been quick to work on behalf of the bosses. In just a few weeks they have decided to raise the CSG[1], to made cuts in housing benefits and state-funded contracts, to freeze public sector wages and to reinstate a one-day waiting period for sick pay in the public sector. But above all they have prepared to blow employment law to pieces.

The exact content of the ordinances reforming the employmenty legislation will be published on August 31. Employment Minister, Muriel Pénicaud, has assured us that "there will be no dismantling of social security". This former Human Resources Director for several large industrial groups (including Danone) is a fully-qualified liar! The main points of her reform project have already been revealed and, even if some details are changed, this reform is a major attack on workers’ rights.

Working hours and salaries will be determined at company level and work contracts will be determined at branch level. This is how the government plans to atomise the working class and isolate workers the better to subject them to the bosses' whims. It’ll be even easier for employers to impose their conditions on their employees than it already is.

Also included in the government project is the generalization of certain types of contracts that already exist in the building industry. Presented as permanent contracts, they only last for the duration of a given job and can be terminated whenever the boss considers that the job has been completed. The government also intends, among other attacks, to make individual and collective layoff procedures easier and to cap employment tribunal compensation for unfair dismissal.

Muriel Pénicaud has a lot of experience in maneuvering against the workers and has gained the complicity of the unions.

The leaders of the CFDT have played along. During last year’s movements against the El Khomri law, Laurent Berger sided with the government and he’s staying on that side of the fence. Jean-Claude Mailly (FO) has done a 180 degree turn; the man who called his union to mobilize for five months against the first employment law now supports the current project.

The leaders of the CGT have also endorsed the Minister's maneuvres by attending all her meetings – which served no other purpose than to deceive the workers. Even so, they have called for a day of mobilisation on Tuesday, September 12 – as have SUD, the FSU and a number of FO's local organisations. This day of mobilisation is a potential starting point which should be seized.

The government has declared war on us, and we workers will not be able to avoid the fight. We are already attacked in many individual companies. On September 12, we must express our collective interests as workers and we can start by speaking out against this anti-working-class law.

The press seems surprised by the sharp drop in Macron's popularity. It is anything but surprising, given his anti-working class policy. But what do we care about the popularity of this or that lackey of the bourgeoisie?  They are all interchangeable, anyway!  Our real problem is to change the balance of forces between our own class and the capitalist class. And this will only be achieved by us, the exploited, mobilising our numbers, in defence of our own class interests, both massively and in a way which is increasingly threatening for our enemies.

[1] CSG (Contribution sociale généralisée) : a supplementary social security contribution created in 1991 by Rocard's Socialist government. It “extended” the tax base to include retirement and disability pensions, unemployment and early retirement benefits, etc. and provided for lesser contributions by the bosses. Its rate was increased over the years and is now bigger than income tax. It finances over 20% of all social security expenses and is paid mostly by workers themselves (over 90%).