All out on strike on December 5 and beyond

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
December 2, 2019

Calling all workers from the metal, car, food and chemical industries. Calling shop workers, cleaners, workers in banks, in security and insurance companies. Calling workers on public transport, on national and local rail networks, teachers, etc. No matter where we work, if we don’t want retirement age to be pushed back and pensions reduced even more, we need to act now.

Retirement pensions are not the only problem. Low wages, job insecurity, under-staffing, longer and longer working hours under constant surveillance and with pressure from the hierarchy. All these problems need to be dealt with because we can’t stand it any longer. With the pathetic wages we earn, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We take out loans to pay the rent, to finance our children’s education or to deal with unexpected expenses. We’re not living, we’re surviving!

If we don’t react, big business and the government will take even more away from us. Thirty years ago, having a job meant having a full-time permanent contract. Retirement age was at 60 with a full pension after working 37.5 years. Today, the government is saying that it’s impossible because there’s no money.

In those same 30 years, the biggest fortunes have increased tenfold. In those same 30 years, company profits have soared. Last week, luxury goods company LVMH spent 15 billion euros to buy out the jeweler Tiffany. But there’s no money? What a cruel joke!

The money in the coffers of the major shareholders should be used for wages, jobs and public services.

The greater the number of people taking to the streets, the more the government will be under pressure. It already is, thanks to the workers from national rail (SNCF) and the Paris region transport network (RATP). They’re not putting up with it and they’re in a position to disrupt a large part of the economy for as long as they want. The government is also under pressure because it’s worried that anger will spread throughout the working class. Let’s show them just how angry we are!

The government wants people to be against the SNCF and RATP workers who, it says, just want to hold on to their special conditions. But if we’re going to talk about privileged people, let’s look at the rich who don’t actually do anything but live off the work of others.

And what about those whose private fortune exceeds that of certain countries? They have so much money that they don’t need to worry about their retirement. We workers should be taking a closer look at their accounts rather than letting them divide us.

Of course SNCF and RATP workers are at the forefront of the movement. They have a long tradition of struggles and they have strength in their number. But they can’t win for everyone if they’re on their own. The fight is also about being respected by major shareholders. If there are strikes in the big private companies, we’ll be hitting them where it hurts–in the wallet! And then the bosses’ union (Medef) will be begging Macron to give up.

The strike’s going to make things difficult for everyone. But, in the fierce battle that will start on December 5, all workers have the same interest, we all need this strike to be successful, to grow and to win. And it’s possible!

If workers from the private sector join those from the public sector, the government and big business will fear us. If the strike continues after December 5 and becomes a real movement, then yes, we can make them back off.

In 1995, Prime Minister Juppé was as arrogant as Macron is today and he had to back down when faced with the strikers’ determination[i]. We can do the same thing now as long as we’re confident once more in our collective force.

Many of us are wary of the union leaders and their selfish calculations which have often led them to sacrifice the workers’ interests. To counter this, we have to fight with the firm conviction that we can organize ourselves to lead and control this movement in a democratic way. We need to be convinced that we can decide and act without waiting for instructions from trade union confederations.

It’s up to each and every one of us to make December 5 the starting point for a massive labor protest. Each and every one of us must play an active role and make this strike movement truly ours.

We’ve waited far too long to react and oppose the setbacks that the government and big business have imposed on us. From Thursday on, let’s counter attack.

[i] In 1995, Juppé planned to push back retirement age for public servants and increase public health contributions for retirees and the unemployed. He said that he wouldn’t budge an inch but, after several weeks of strikes and demonstrations, he had to back down.