For the strikes on March 15 and 22, let's hold our heads high

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
12 March 2018

Ninety-three billion, four hundred million euros. That’s how much profit the top 40 companies on the French stock exchange accumulated in 2017. That’s 24% more than in 2016.

That amount of money is enough to pay a net wage of 1,500 euros, including social contributions, to more than three million workers for one year. So why should workers accept understaffing, low wages and working conditions that are getting worse?

Of that total, Peugeot made 2.36 billion, Renault 3.5, luxury goods company Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy 5.1, Axa 6.2, BNP Paribas 7.84 and Sanofi 8.4. These exorbitant profits are the direct result of the class struggle that capitalists and politicians are waging against workers

The profits are the result of job cuts, speed-ups and wage freezes for the workers in these major groups but also for temporary and sub-contractor workers who do the hardest and lowest paid jobs.

What does Macron, France’s president have to say? That it must go on. That workers, retired people and the unemployed must make more sacrifices. One pro-Macron MP even called retirees “the golden generation” in order to justify reducing pensions for several million of them.

The current French government has an unprecedented number of millionaires and executives who profited from golden parachutes when they left their corporate jobs. But, to hear Macron speak, retirees who receive a monthly pension of more than 1,200 euros are privileged. Railroad workers and workers in the public sector are privileged too because they have safe jobs. Workers with full-term contracts are privileged because their jobs are safer than workers on short-term contracts or temporary workers. And the latter, compared with the unemployed, are lucky enough to have work from time to time, so the government pretty much considers them to be privileged too!

In other words, no one should complain because there’s always someone worse off. This shameless propaganda is an attempt to divide us, to force us to bow down and accept the same conditions as the worst off and the worst paid. In the meantime, the rich will get even richer and enjoy unbelievably cushy jobs.

Railroad workers are just like other workers, they don’t need lectures from anyone.

The biggest fortunes increase by 10 or 20% every year but job security has become an unacceptable luxury? Shareholders receive dividends by the ton but wage increases and taking staff on is not possible? The government has given six billion euros in tax breaks to the rich but retirement homes, schools and courts must work on a shoestring? This kind of reasoning is unacceptable!

A large part of the working class is against Macron. Let’s hope that the resentment they feel will eventually blow up in his face.

Workers need to regain confidence in their collective strength. A crushing majority opposed the El Khomri Law[1] in 2016 and Macron’s executive orders in 2017. But too few workers took part in the strikes and demonstrations to stop the attacks.

That’s why we hear people say “no one wants to fight any more”. But that isn’t true. There are workers who want to make themselves heard and who want to fight back.

On March 15, retirees will demonstrate, retirement home staff and home help, who are all in dire need of resources, will be on strike and the metallurgy sector will be organizing rallies. On March 22, workers from the Parisian rail network and the electricity board will take to the streets alongside public-sector and railroad workers.

The mobilization of SNCF[2] workers is of particular importance. Unlike the union leaders who are holding back from calling for indefinite strike action, a lot of railroad workers know that they have no choice and must prepare for a difficult fight. They need all workers on their side. It’s not just a question of solidarity, it’s in the interest of the working class as a whole.

Macron is using his strong-arm tactics to prove that nothing and no one can stop his anti-working-class policies. If the railroad workers get him to back down, they’ll change the balance of political power and raise the morale of the working class. If not, Macron and the bourgeoisie will be even more arrogant and will have free rein to continue their attacks.

Railroad workers must fight back and workers in general must hold their heads high. We all need to fight with the pride of those who work hard for a living and refuse to be crushed under the iron heel of profit makers.

[1] Named after the minister of labor, Myriam El Khomri, the El Khomri (or Labor Law) changed labor legislation (working hours, overtime, lay-offs….) making it far less favorable to workers

[2] SNCF : Société Nationale de Chemins de Fer, France’s still more or less national rail network