Public or private sector: we must fight together

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
9 October 2017

A month ago, French President Macron said that protesters were “lazy do-nothings”. Last week, he once again showed his bourgeois contempt for workers who stand up and try to save their jobs. Commenting on a demonstration organized by auto workers, he declared--from behind a wall of special police shooting tear gas at strikers--that they’d be “better off looking for a job than screwing things up”.

This servant of the bosses obviously believes that workers should accept being exploited and fired without a word! Those who wreak havoc in society are not the workers but the capitalists and all those who cater to their interests in the president’s office and the various ministries.

The strikers were employees of GM&S, a subcontractor of carmakers Peugeot and Renault. These two companies want GM&S to fire 157 workers out of 277, despite the fact that their combined yearly profit was an unprecedented five billion euros. This sum alone could finance jobs for tens of thousands of workers. But corporate managers are insatiable. 

The total benefits of France’s 40 richest companies were above 50 billion euros for the first semester of 2017. Over 40 billion euros have been distributed to shareholders, breaking the all-time record of 2006! Of course, these profits don’t come out of the blue. They are the result of worker exploitation, massive job cuts, continually increasing production rates and workloads, as well as frozen wages.

Macron’s reform of the wealth tax means that more than three billion euros will remain in the hands of the better-off, allowing them to buy yet more yachts and other status symbols. But Macron’s biggest gift to the wealthy was his doing away with the last few legal barriers that remained to protect workers collectively. 

These attacks were planned at the top levels of the state and in executive board meetings. They won't stop unless workers stand firm against them.

Truck drivers recently showed that it was possible to force the government to back down. They mobilized against Macron’s executive orders which, at company level, represented a threat to their bonuses and travel expenses. They feared monthly wage drops that could have totalled 1,200 euros. In the end, their movement compelled the bosses and the government to sign an agreement that guaranteed their earnings.

The climb-down of Macron's government is an encouragement for all working people.

On October 10, public sector workers are called to go on strike and to march against the wage freeze, the planned cut of 120,000 jobs and worsening working conditions. Public sector employees have every reason to fight back. And it is in the interest of all working people to join their fight against the deterioration of the school system, hospitals and public services in general.

Workers must do their utmost to ensure that October 10 is a success. This would boost the morale of all those who want to fight back. In the private sector, some unions have already called workers--in transports and railways--to mobilize on the same day as the civil servants. In many towns, public and private sector employees will march together. We are all under attack. We must fight hand in hand to put an end to the combined offensive of the government and the bosses.

The success of the strikes and demonstrations of September 12 and 21 against Macron’s executive orders pushed union leaders to meet and discuss the possibility of another day of mobilization. This is what's needed for workers’ initiatives to be seen as belonging to a single movement and for working people to regain confidence in their ability to launch collective actions and fight back.

In spite of Macron's tough talk and posturing, his government, like so many past bourgeois governments, will inevitably cave in If workers unite their forces and launch their own general offensive.