The “no-railroad-workers day” was a success for all workers who aim to hold their heads high

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
May 14, 2018

Although more than a month has gone by since the railroad workers’ movement began, their 18th day of strike action was a success. The number of railroad workers on strike today was as high as it was at the very beginning of their movement. Most of the drivers and ticket inspectors, as well as a large proportion of the station agents, signalmen, equipment and infrastructure staff were on strike, making May 14 a “no-railroad-workers day” and a no-trains day on many lines.

This really quashed the lies and manipulations that management has been feeding to the media. Every week they have announced that the movement is losing momentum. And they count each replacement bus as a train so that the strike appears to have less impact. Adding slander to outright lies, management has recently spoken of “the threat of violent acts and of stations being blocked" as if the strikers were nothing but a bunch of hooligans.

The truth of the matter is that it was the railroad workers’ organization and determination that made the “no-railroad-workers day” a success. They visited stations, depots and workshops to convince all those who only participate in the movement occasionally and those who hadn’t participated at all to join them in their struggle. The high level of participation in today’s strike was a living referendum, far better than any poll in demonstrating that the workers have no intention of letting Macron's reform pass!

Since the beginning of the movement, managers and ministers have sworn time and again that SNCF will remain a public service. But a leaked memorandum proves that both SNCF and the government are already planning the system's privatization. Nothing but an elite of shameless liars! The railroad workers are absolutely right to reject this reform and the attacks on working conditions, wages and pensions that go with it. They are absolutely right to oppose this policy head on, to say no to the gift Macron wants to offer to the capitalists and to the setbacks he wants to impose on railroad workers and passengers alike!

By refusing to surrender, railroad workers are contributing to a change in the social and political climate. Their resistance is a serious problem for Macron whose “reform” of the SNCF is only the latest episode in an overall attack against the working class that has been going on for years. Here, there and everywhere, workers have suffered blows: factory closures, the rise of job insecurity, cuts in jobs, wages and holidays – sacrifices imposed in the name of competitiveness.

Successive governments have accompanied the bosses' blackmail and attacks with measures of their own, designed to make exploitation even easier. All in the name of “economic recovery”, of course. They have all promised that sacrifices made now and the resulting short-term rise in unemployment will lead to prosperity for all in the future.

Of course, capital owners are prospering already as they continue to pile up billions in fortunes. Shareholding “fat cats” are becoming fatter and fatter as they pocket an ever greater share of profits. The shareholders of the 40 richest French companies have more than doubled their share of profits over the last fifteen years, from 30% to 67%. Who has benefitted from the anti-worker policies led by the successive governments and from their aggravation under Macron? No need to ask!

That policy has provoked many reactions: protests against the El Khomri law[1] and the dismantling of labor legislation; against the cutting of pensions and housing aid; against the stricter control of jobseekers to force them to accept any job at all, however casual. But so far the opposition has not been strong enough to roll that policy back.

By going on strike – and their strike remains solid and determined – the railroad workers are holding their heads high. Their action has attracted the sympathy of a majority of workers, and in this way their movement is contributing, even in a limited way, to a restoration of our self-confidence as workers. It is helping to spread the idea that, as a class, we have the strength and means to stop the offensive of the capitalist class.

We, the workers, produce everything in this society so yes, we have the power to stop the bourgeoisie in its tracks. And yes, we can oppose the logic of this declining capitalist system. A system that in rich countries like France is fighting a war to push workers’ living and working conditions back to what they were a century ago. A system that condemns whole populations to remain underdeveloped and spreads barbarism and chaos across the globe.

We can refuse that future by preparing to fight for our own!

[1]           El Khomri Law: a law presented by labor minister Myriam El Khomri during François Hollande’s office and adopted on 8 August 2016. It was designed to reform France’s Labor Code and makes it easier for companies to lay off workers, reduce overtime payments and severance payments that workers are entitled to if their company has laid them off.