Work more and earn less? No way!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
September 19, 2022

Everyone remembers Sarkozy’s motto “work more to earn more”. Now, according to Macron we’re expected to “work more and earn less”!

Macron has, indeed, asked the government to put pension reform back on the agenda. It seems they are still hesitating on what shape it will take: will retirement age be pushed back to 64 or 65? Will the number of years workers pay into retirement funds be increased? Will it be an all-out Blitzkrieg attack in October or a drawn-out war of attrition this spring? In any case, it’s completely unacceptable.

The government and the bosses of major corporations are already robbing us by refusing to increase wages while all our bills are going up whether it be for groceries, gas, utilities or bread...

In 2023, natural gas and electricity bills are set to go up 15% and the prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, was practically boasting when she made the announcement that it would be a small increase compared to other countries. How arrogant!

We are, of course, sinking deeper into a new crisis. But the crisis doesn’t mean there isn’t any money because there is – and a whole lot of it. Over the last semester, the 40 biggest French companies made 73 billion euros in profit. The latest dividends paid out to shareholders went up 33% reaching 44 billion euros. How many workers saw their pay go up that much?

The current situation has given energy-producing companies the opportunity to get richer than ever. Without making any investments or any changes to how energy is produced and without any added cost, they are selling their energy for 10 times the price they were charging just one year ago. Capitalists in the energy sector are hitting the jackpot while consumers are getting drained out.

And it’s the same deal in the automotive industry. Car manufacturers overcame their supply difficulties by deciding to make fewer vehicles and to sell them at a higher price. They found a way to increase their profit margins by manufacturing vehicles that cost more, including electric ones, all to the great satisfaction of PSA Stellantis, Renault and Toyota shareholders. As for the car factory workers, they’re going broke and it’s tough luck for all those needing a new car but can’t afford one.

It is, in fact, the same deal for capitalists in the pharmaceutical and the arms industries, in insurance and banking. All those who are in a position of force can increase the prices of their own products as other prices go up. And if that’s not enough, they can exploit workers more and impose more sacrifices on them.

So long as we don’t claim what is rightfully ours, things will continue to get worse. Those who sit around doing nothing will continue to make incredible fortunes while millions of people like us will live in worry because it will be hard to pay for a place to live in, for childcare and even for groceries.

Some bosses are handing out bonuses so they won’t have to increase wages. The biggest companies definitely have the means to raise pay. But bonuses and government handouts will disappear like snow in summer because they’ll never make up for the extra 300 to 400 euros we need every month on our paychecks. And let’s not forget that when we get sick or retire, it’s our base salary that counts, excluding bonuses. So what we need is for our wages to go up at the same rate as actual prices do.

Whether it be for our wages or our rights to retirement pensions and unemployment benefits, we have to be respected. We will get respect by joining together and getting organized. Realizing our collective strength in the workplace and in society in general is what will allow us to pull through.

Several trade unions including CGT, FSU and Solidaires are calling for strike action and demonstrations on September 29. Some workers will seize the opportunity to join workers in other professions. Others will take action in their workplaces or on their factory floors or take the time to discuss things together. A number of strikes have already broken out here and there. Let’s hope that they grow in number and strength.

One thing is certain: if we let the government and the bosses decide what we need on our behalf, the only thing we’ll get is charity. It’s up to us to discuss our issues, express our demands and to get ready, everywhere, to put up a fight and obtain them.

Nathalie Arthaud