Against all divisions, workers must defend their collective interests

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
January 17, 2022

The presidential campaign has started, and not a day passes without a flow of foul remarks. Zemmour, an expert in the field, has just declared that children with disabilities should be educated separately from others, in specialized establishments, because “the obsession with inclusion” is all part, he says, of “egalitarian ideology”. This call for segregation is nauseating. But the present and past ministers who criticized his declaration are hypocrites. Indeed, the workers in charge of accompanying those students (90% of whom are women, paid 760 euros per month on average) are in short supply. This is because the state wants to spend as little as possible on educating these children.

Presidential candidates keep talking about first names of Muslim origin, the French flag or the measures to be taken against foreign workers. All of this is gutter demagoguery, that serves only to divert attention from the essential issues of wages, employment, working conditions and pensions. So, the world of labour must interrupt this avalanche of stupidity by highlighting the real problems.

On Thursday January 13, tens of thousands of education workers demonstrated against the contempt in which the government and Blanquer, the Minister of Education, hold them. For months they have imposed one so called “health protocol” after another, without ever giving teachers and the other workers employed in schools the material and human means to do their job. A sure sign that the government fears the mobilization of workers is that Castex immediately made some concessions.

These workers aren't the only ones who are fed up. In many companies, workers are demanding wage increases. The financial reports published by big companies are shocking. In 2021, the CAC 40 index (representing the total value of the 40 biggest French companies) rose by 29%. How many workers can say the same about their salary? Those gigantic corporations made more than 100 billion euros in profits, and the billionaires saw their wealth increase dramatically.

Yes, it’s about time we talked about the salaries of home helpers and carers, of hospital and nursing home staff, of bus and truck drivers, of security guards and warehouse workers, of labourers in the agri-food and construction industries, of all those “first line” workers who are so essential to society, yet so despised and mistreated by their bosses and by those in power. In April 2020, Macron explained that social distinctions should be based on utility. Coming from him, that's a joke! For workers, nothing has changed, except for the worse. So workers need to use the ongoing electoral period to be heard.

Energy and food prices are rising, eating away our purchasing power? Then salaries must follow and increase by 300, 400, 500 euros! No salary, no retirement pension should be below 2,000 euros net per month.

In hospitals, schools, offices and factories, overwork is crushing everyone, while there are 5.7 million jobseekers? Then workers should be hired massively, so as to share out the workload among everyone. This should be done without loss of salary, and by taking the necessary money from company profits.

The pandemic has allowed capitalist groups, especially pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies, the GAFAM and supermarkets, to make billions? Then they must be subjected to control by the population. And if they are reluctant, they must be expropriated and operated for the collective good.

The workers must not expect the future President of the Republic to change things. We have to rely on our own struggles. On January 27, most trade unions (the CGT, FO, FSU and Solidaires) are calling for a day of strikes and demonstrations ifor an increase in wages. This day will not be enough, of course, because to impose concessions on the capitalists, powerful and massive struggles will be required. But it can be a first step to show our strength and prepare for other mobilizations.

Let the workers rely on their collective strength rather than on the electoral promises made by this or that politician! Workers need to put forward their collective interests, and reject the divisions between French and foreign workers, between those employed in the public sector and those employed in the private sector, between those who have a job and those who are deprived of one.

It’s to say all this that I’m running as a candidate in the presidential election. In this campaign, I want to embody the pride and combativeness of the working class, which produces all wealth and receives nothing in return.

Nathalie Arthaud