On December 5, let’s make the government tremble

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
November 11, 2019

An inter-professional strike has been called for by a number of French trade unions (CGT, FO, Solidaires, FSU) on December 5 to protest against the government's retirement pension reform. We now have three weeks left to to prepare our mobilization.

By going on strike, workers will be saying no to yet another government reform that will raise the retirement age and reduce pensions. The government does its best to divide us by talking about “special” regimes and pointing its finger at workers they consider to be privileged. But nothing will happen to the truly privileged... Macron's billionaire friends will be spared when the reform hits the wage-earners.

All workers will lose out if pensions are no longer calculated from their best 25 years, but from their entire career. As for Macron’s “point” system, it's nothing but a blank check to the government. This government recently took 3.5 billion euros from the unemployed and 1 billion from the beneficiaries of the APL (personalized housing support). No doubt it can do the same, tomorrow, at the expense of pensioners!

More generally speaking, December 5 is an opportunity to express all the anger accumulated by working people. And if it's a success, it could be a first step in commanding respect from Macron and the big companies’ CEOs.

After the summer holidays, many workers expressed their dissatisfaction by going on strike, like the workers of SNCF (the national railroad system) and RATP (the Paris bus and metro network). Others operated at a slower pace—hospital staff have announced this type of action, and a big demonstration in Paris, for Thursday, November 14.

The government has tried for weeks to put out the discontent smoldering in hospitals. It has tried to show that the announcements made were not just hype. But it hasn’t responded to the hospital staff’s basic demands: more staff and beds, better wages, paid overtime and less crazy working conditions. The problem is so serious that hospitals find it difficult to recruit and retain doctors or nurses. In other words, hospital workers are not about to stop mobilizing!

Public sector workers are not the only ones to be fed up and feel despised. It’s also the case in private companies where workers are precarious, treated like insignificant cogwheels, permanently put under pressure to be more productive while earning less money. One competitive drive is barely over that another one is launched, asking for more sacrifices: job losses, fewer days off, mobility and flexibility obligations. The big corporations which carry out such policies thrive, collecting profits and distributing generous dividends to their shareholders--as is the case at Michelin, Peugeot or in banks.

The government knows that there are limits to what workers will put up with. It's aware that in the present climate a spark could set the world of labor on fire.

It fears such an outcome because recently workers have managed to get organized by themselves, at grassroots level. A genuine rank-and-file movement like the Yellow Vests has shown that it was possible to escape any sort of control by the trade union confederations. This is why the closer we get to December 5, the more feverish the government is.

Concerning the pensions issue, Macron and Philippe did their best to try and defuse the protests. They started by postponing the reform until after the March 2020 municipal elections. Then they abandoned the idea of a “pivotal age” fixed at 64. Today, they are apparently ready to introduce a so-called “grandfather clause”, according to which the measures contained in the reform would not be applied to present-day workers but only to the next generation of workers upon their entering the labor market.

They’ve got to be cynical indeed to ask all of us who benefit today from the gains made thanks to the struggles of our parents and grandparents to heartlessly condemn our children to a worse fate.

But it also shows that the government has more than one scheme in their bag of tricks and will try to divide and set workers and unions against one other. Well, we mustn't fall into the trap!

Here and there, workers are standing up and organizing. RATP workers are trying to take advantage of the situation created by their September 13 strike to move forward. SNCF workers are mobilized around the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions. There have been local work stoppages to protest against security conditions, the lack of staff, low wages—showing that the anger goes far beyond the question of pensions. On December 5, it will be possible to express this unrest collectively and on a much larger scale.

So, whether you work in the public or private sector, walk out and express your anger. The government knows that it might have social explosion on its agenda. Let’s show them that their fear is justified. All together, let’s command respect!