No to limiting access to university and to privatizing public services or making them profit-oriented

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
5 February 2018

The government, after using executive orders to wreck labor conditions, is now readying itself for the next set of "reforms" on their agenda. They want to reform state administration, professional training, unemployment insurance, secondary schools and the conditions of access to university education. 

The reform of state administration spells destruction on a large scale. The government intends to develop casual employment and performance-related remuneration. The closing down of entire public services has been scheduled, which means massive job cuts comparable to those in the private sector. At least 120,000 jobs are threatened.

Public sector jobs matter. They matter to civil servants but also to working people. We don’t want 120,000 workers to be fired and forced to join today's five million job-seekers.  And public services are part and parcel of our living conditions.

People who have already experienced a shortage of doctors, the closure of local maternity hospitals, railway lines or post offices know what accepting more cutbacks in public services would mean. You just need to measure the gap between prices in the private and public sectors for clinics, childcare centers and retirement homes to see the difference.

Last week, the protest organized by nursing home employees reminded us that the presence of enough qualified personnel to take care of the elderly is a social necessity. The government says it wants to "modernize" the sector, but robots are not the answer when it comes to taking care of old or sick residents, or to educating young children for that matter.

Macron’s government hasn’t yet said how many teachers, hospital employees and prison guards they want to sack. They talk about cutting jobs that don't belong to the “core activities” of the public sector and that could be handed over to the private sector. What do they have in mind? Outsourcing school canteens? Subcontracting the maintenance of infrastructures?

We all know what subcontracting implies: private sector entrepreneurs are only willing to invest when they can make a profit---at the expense of consumers and workers. Big subcontractors in corporate catering or retirement homes inevitably increase exploitation by raising their fees and slashing the workforce.

We must fight against the idea that every activity must generate a profit. Cash is king in this society. But education, health, transportation, postal services, telecommunications, water and energy supplies ought to be just that: services to the public. They shouldn't be geared toward making profit, or submitted to absurd and inhuman "laws of the market". Their sole and only goal should be the satisfaction of collective needs.

This week, protests are being organized to defend that perspective. On Tuesday, teachers will march against job cuts and student selection. On Thursday, railway workers will protest against the worsening of their working conditions and the planned privatization of the railways.

As for the French minister of national education, he is apparently very pleased with himself. He proudly talks about the creation of small classes of no more than twelve six-year-olds in selected poor neighborhoods. But he forgets to mention that this is done at the expense of other children as not a single teaching job has been created. And his support of this educational experiment doesn't deter him from building a school system that is more and more selective and elitist.

He also pretends to have put an end to the old, unfair system of entry into higher education. He has indeed replaced the existing “lottery” with state-of-the-art software. The problem is that the system wasn’t unfair because of the software but because of the lack of facilities. And things are bound to get worse come next September, when 40,000 students with an end-of-high-school diploma in hand will be knocking on the doors of universities.

This government believes that guaranteeing the access of each new generation to higher education would be a waste of money. They cynically go along with a system that denies full access to universities and  community colleges by students from working-class backgrounds because they are prejudiced into thinking that no diploma can get these students a job and that they'll inevitably end up in the same unemployment line as other jobless youths.

The situation in education, retirement homes, hospitals and public transportation is a concern for all working people. The government and the bourgeoisie are waging a war against us. They organize direct attacks against our wages, jobs and holidays but they also launch antisocial attacks that make society as a whole fall back instead of pushing forward and progressing. And the sole purpose of it all is to allow a parasitic minority to live off the rest of society.