The bosses and those who represent them are the real thugs

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
20 November 2017

Nine CGT[i] union militants from one of the Peugeot plants in the Paris region have just been given a five-month suspended sentence. They were falsely accused by management of sequestration and psychological violence in meetings. Everything about the case against them is revolting: management’s lies, as well as the attitude of the legal system which treats workers who defend their interests as thugs and criminals. But this is not an isolated case.

Last July, following similarly false accusations, the secretary of the CGT of the same company was given a six-month suspended sentence. In the Peugeot plant in Mulhouse, in the east of France, six activists were indicted for handing out a leaflet that the directors considered libellous. For Peugeot management, any excuse is good to try and break combative activists: pressure on a daily basis, intimidation, requests for dismissal and now court cases.

All bosses have had for years the same attitude as Peugeot management. The workers at Air France who tore the shirt of a manager, those at Goodyear who fought against the closure of their plant and those of many other companies have all had to face the same repression.

When bosses attack militant workers, they use the same arbitrary methods that they use against the overwhelming majority of workers on a daily basis. They impose speed-ups, shortened breaks and use permanent employment blackmail. The goal is always to increase profits and make the shareholders richer.

Five years ago, Peugeot claimed to be on the brink of bankruptcy. In the first semester of 2017, they made a profit of more than one billion euros. These profits were made by cutting jobs (33,000 have been slashed since 2011), by upping the number of precarious contracts and by increasing the exploitation of all workers in the group.

French president Macron’s executive orders have given the bosses a whole array of anti-working-class weapons. One of these directly targets militant workers: between now and December 31, 2019, the Employee Representative Committee, the Employee Delegates and the Health and Safety Committee will be merged into one single body, the Social and Economic Committee. It’s obvious that the goal is to diminish the number of employee representatives which, in the largest companies, will be halved. Consecutive terms of office will be limited to three. The government has the nerve to say that this is “to ensure worker representativeness”! In reality, Macron is making the bosses happy by allowing them to stop workers from choosing freely the people best suited to represent them and to defend their interests.

The French labor minister, ex-Human Resources head of Danone, says that she wants to encourage “the professionalization" of trade unionism. What she has in mind is a trade unionism that is more influenced by the bosses than by the workers. The bourgeoisie and those who speak on their behalf claim that class struggle is “over and done with” but their attitude and policies show the opposite: they continue to fight against the working class.

The mobilization days that have been organised since September have given hundreds of thousands of women and men the opportunity to demonstrate their opposition to attacks from the government and bosses. The working class has the strength to put a stop to social regression and impose its rights. But only a general fight involving all workers can achieve that.

In the past, workers have shown that they could fight and defend themselves even when the bourgeoisie denied their right to strike and sent in the army to repress them. They had to fight to win the right to have trade unions and it took the June 1936 general strike to impose their right to have delegates in companies.

Sooner or later, the bourgoisie's overt show of greed and arrogance will provoke a social explosion. And well deserved it will be, too.

[i] CGT: Conféderation Générale du Travail. One of France’s major unions and possibly the most left-wing. As with most unions, the leader is usually ready to negotiate with the bosses and/or the government but the base remains relatively combative