As prices go up, say no to wages and retirement pensions going down

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
October 11, 2021

The sudden price hike on fuel, gas and electricity is causing acute anxiety for many workers. And for obvious reasons! An added 10 to 20 euros when you fill the tank or pay your energy bill mean making big sacrifices when it's hard enough as it is to make ends meet.

This huge rise in prices comes after years of frozen wages and in the midst of a full-on attack from the bosses who want ro reduce salaries. They're reducing or doing away with bonuses; they've set up an hour-count system that means no more increased pay for overtime…

And then there's short-time work that continues due to raw-material shortages in many plants. This means thousands of workers who haven't received full pay for more than a year and a half.

This can't go on! There must be a general increase in basic wages. The minimum guaranteed salary must be raised. It currently condemns millions of workers to poverty, starting with those who are forced to work only part time. And because rent and bills have to be paid in full, workers must be paid in full, even for short-time work!

Even the gouvernement recognises that, in the hotel and catering industry, "wages that are too low explain why it is difficult to recruit". It's the same problem in numerous other sectors - health, cleaning, home help, retail. The problem will continue to exist for as long as the wages and working conditions on offer are insufficient to pay for decent housing, transport, childcare, etc.

And because inflation is becoming a serious problem again, it's time to put the question of linking wages to inflation back on the table. The gouvernement is throwing up a smokescreen with its energy check and so-called gas price freeze when there's already been a hike of almost 60% over the year. Worst of all, the price hike has only been postponed and the state is going to make us pay the interest on the loan they're taking out to pay the energy companies’ losses!

We are in fact threatened with a price increase that goes far beyond energy prices. The cost of container transport has increased seven or eight times. Grain has gone up 30% in one year, wheat 40%. The shortage of certain materials, such as steel, copper, wood and paper, is also pushing up prices. Everything is converging so that these increases are reflected in all products, including foodstuffs and toilet paper.

Wages have to increase at the same rate as the prices that you can measure when filling up your gas tank or shopping cart. In concrete terms, this indexation means that the mileage allowance, paid to employees who have no other solution than to use their car to travel to work, must be immediately increased in proportion to the increase in fuel prices.

Today, because of the election campaign, all the politicians are pretending to be concerned about wages. Some have promised bonuses paid by the state, others salary increases offset by exemptions from contributions. In other words, they would be taking money from the workers' pockets as taxpayers to increase their wages! This is a swindle.

We're not asking for a handout when we ask for a real wage increase, we're demanding what's due to us. Workers produce all the wealth, including profits, which are rising sharply. Well, those profits should first go to wages, jobs and working conditions. Profits are rising? Wages can and must rise!

Armchair discussions between ministers and bosses are not likely to bring about wage increases, and election campaign promises won’t achieve that either. It can only be done by the determined struggles of all workers, for a common goal: wages, pensions and benefits that allow people to live.

Substantial wage increases have always been wrested from the bosses by massive strikes that spread like wildfire. This was the case during the general strike of 1936, and the one in May 1968 which led to a 30% increase in the minimum wage. It was because workers knew how to make themselves feared by the employers that the latter finally untied the purse strings. There has never been a supreme saviour for workers, not even to get wage increases. This is part of the struggle that lies ahead!

Nathalie Arthaud