Back to work, but above all back to working-class fights

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
September 6, 2021

As summer draws to an end, economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, is one pretty happy man. He’s happy because the bosses and the bosses’ union are happy. And boy are they ever!

French billionaires have seen their fortunes grow 40% since the beginning of the Covid crisis. In August, the top 40 companies on the French stock market reached their highest level in 21 years with listed companies making a record-breaking profit of 57 billion euros in just the first half of 2021. The six richest companies – PSA-Stellantis, LVMH, ArcelorMittal, BNP Paribas, TotalEnergies and Axa – have each made more than 4 billion euros in profit.

Big business owners are rubbing their hands in glee because, not only did they cash in on state subsidies, they seized the opportunity to restructure, put more pressure on employees and increase exploitation.

So many bosses jumped at the chance to implement furlough schemes paid for by the state and then increased work rates during working hours. So many bosses used the crisis to freeze wages and not pay out bonuses. So many bosses took advantage of the situation to impose early retirement but didn’t hire new workers to replace them, laid off temporary workers and those on short-term contracts and implemented more competitiveness and redundancy plans.

It’s the labor of millions of workers that has produced billions in profits and dividends. And exploited workers are under the highest pressure they’ve ever experienced, even those working from home. With the health pass, the bosses even have a new way of keeping workers in line this fall.

Today, everything is set up to make employees work harder than ever and this makes the bosses more than happy. But there are just as many reasons for workers to be furious and they must express their anger!

Renault and Airbus have both announced 15,000 job cuts, which they will go ahead with even though they are back to making big profits. Foundries and large multinational factories are being closed down, leaving thousands of workers without a job. Shortage of parts is causing factories to shut down and the wages of thousands of workers are being cut as a consequence. Are we going to let shareholders live the good life while workers lose their livelihoods and can’t make ends meet?

The health crisis has caused many workers to lose their jobs and live in poverty. Many young people have seen their future prospects blocked. Are we going to let the government reduce their welfare benefits and jobseekers’ allowances starting October 1, as planned?

And then there’s the question of wages. The government admits that “low wages explain the problem with hiring” in the hotel and restaurant industry. But if that’s what the government really thinks, then why doesn’t it make the bosses increase wages? Not only does the government refuse to do so, it also refuses to boost the minimum wage, condemning millions of women and men to poverty. It’s all pure hypocrisy, especially since the state itself is opposed to the pay raises needed in healthcare and education!

The question of wages mustn’t remain restricted to drawing-room discussions between ministers and employers. We must have our say and fight for a general increase in wages and their indexation on the real level of inflation.

Prices are going up: gas, electricity, rent, insurance, basic materials. And sooner or later, soaring grain prices will cause the price of food to go up too, starting with the price of bread. The only thing not going up at all are wages.

During the summer, the trade unions were noticeably absent, so the only way in which the anger of the laboring classes was expressed was through demonstrations against the health pass and mandatory vaccination.

This fall, an inter-trade union committee including the CGT, FO, FSU and Solidaires has decided to organize a general day of protest on Tuesday, October 5. And it’s about time! But what’s the point of calling for separate days of action, sector by sector, if not to break up a protest before it even happens!

It’s time for workers to express their anger at the government’s contempt. They must be united and prepared to fight for their interests. The vital interests of workers, their jobs, their wages, their working conditions and their pensions – which are still being targeted by Macron – must come before the interests of a class of rich parasites who keep getting richer and are completely irresponsible towards society.