Let 2018 be the year that workers fight back

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
January 1, 2018

President Macron's New Year wishes were as predictable as they were hypocritical. Predictable, because like former presidents Sarkozy and Hollande he promised that by the end of the year there would be no homeless people in France. But there have never been so many. Non-profit organizations have even told us that emergency accommodation centers are bursting at the seams. Hypocritical, because the right of asylum is being denied when refugees are chased by the police. To reach France, refugees take ever greater risks, like crossing mountain passes on foot in midwinter. In this context, talking of “fraternity” and “humanism” while planning to make tougher immigration laws is a farce.

The first holiday gifts are for the bosses: the executive orders of President Macron and Labor Minister Pénicaud were recently published and their effects are now making themselves felt.

For example, collective contractual termination means that perfectly healthy companies can now get rid of a great number of employees without setting up a social plan or even proposing to find new jobs for them. Car manufacturer Peugeot wants to use this method despite having already slashed nearly 25,000 jobs in five years, producing more cars and earning billions. Pimkie, a clothing chain that is part of one of the richest groups in France (the Mulliez group), wants to cut 200 jobs using this method that is one of Macron’s gifts to company owners. As a union member pointed out, the employees fired by this same chain in 2010 received 30,000 to 50,000 euros in severance pay whereas a sales person fired in 2018 will only receive the legal minimum which is less than 5,000 euros for 15 years’ seniority. Other companies are preparing similar dirty tricks.

And this is just the beginning of the implementation of a reform that was dictated by the bosses.

The government now wants to attack job seekers. They receive too much money for the bosses’ liking. So the project is to rapidly diminish the amount paid to job seekers who refuse more than one offer. The government criticizes “social fraud”. But the truth is that, according to official numbers, the “fraud” is minimal compared with the tax fraud practiced by large companies and the rich. But for them, the government rolls out the red carpet: no more wealth tax, capital income tax is capped, corporate tax is lower. No need to look elsewhere for a tax haven, France will soon be one!

Macron is making rich people’s dreams come true. The Bloomberg billionaires index published last week showed that the 500 largest fortunes in the world had increased their worth by 23% in one year. How many employees can say the same thing? Bernard Arnault, the head of luxury goods company LVMH and 6th greatest fortune in the world, increased his fortune by 20 billion euros in one year — a rise of 38,000 euros every minute!

For the working class, the opposite is happening. On January 1, gas prices increased by 7% and the cost of fuel tax, postage stamps and insurance also went up. The CSG[i] will be increased by 1.7 points and this will hit retirees and other categories. The government boasts of its 2018 “buying power budget”. That’s a Christmas fairy tale for children! Even France’s National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) admits that the tax shortfall will be 4.5 billion euros. And only the naïve can believe the story of the disappearing housing tax: they’ll try and make us pay for it one way or another.

Pierre Gattaz, the president of the bosses’ union was jubilant: “Macron has made the reforms that we’ve been waiting for”. He has indeed. At this time of year, looking back at 2017, the press is indulgent, agreeing with the bosses and congratulating Macron for having managed to put these measures through, without setting off social opposition. If they are relieved, it is because they are frightened of the workers. Afraid that workers will raise their heads and oppose these full-scale attacks. Well they’re right to be afraid!

Our New Year wishes are the complete opposite of Macron’s. We hope that 2018 will be the year that the workers fight back. That the workers, who are the ones who make society function, will reject all forms of passivity. That they will give blow for blow to the bosses and their puppets in government. Our wish for 2018 is that the workers no longer suffer the attacks but defend their interests and impose their demands

[i] 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%).