After the Covid-19 threat, now comes the threat of factory closures and layoffs. It’s a threat against which the state will offer no protection as we can already see with what’s happening at Renault.
Renault has fired the opening shots in the latest offensive against workers by announcing its intention to shut down four plants, including the one in Flins. Four thousand employees and dozens of suppliers and subcontractors will be affected. And yet the minister of economy declared that the state, which holds 15% of Renault's capital, "will not demand that jobs be preserved"!
So, with the complicity of the state, a big conglomerate like Renault is about to wipe out entire plants and to give the boot to thousands of workers which goes to show that all working people are threatened. Airbnb, Uber, André, La Halle, Safran, General Electric, Air France, Airbus and their subcontractors (like Daher or Derichebourg Aéronautique) make up a growing list of companies that are restructuring and laying off.
In this capitalist system where the only rule is “dog eat dog”, the crisis is an opportunity for the more powerful capital-owners to gobble up the weaker ones and tighten their grip on subcontractors and suppliers. It's also a weapon used by the bosses to blackmail workers, forcing them to accept additional sacrifices.
Unlike Covid-19, the epidemic of closures and layoffs has no natural causes. These are class choices, aimed at making and maintaining profits. And the capitalist class will condemn workers to unemployment and let them perish if necessary. This is unacceptable!
Fighting against these layoffs is vital for working people. The ongoing crisis has made it nearly impossible to find a new job. Getting fired is a sentence to poverty and social decline.
In recent years, many workers set up their own small business after they were fired. Some operated small restaurants, others became passenger vehicle drivers. How many now find themselves without any income? How many are up to their necks in debt? And how many temporary workers must now wait in breadlines to feed their families?
When workers' jobs and health are threatened, these issues must become top priorities. Every blue-collar or white-collar worker, every permanent or temping wage-earner must be guaranteed a job and the salary they need to live a decent life.
If the number of industrial purchase orders plummets and activity is down, work must be shared out between all wage-earners. If there is not much work to do then production can be slowed down and work hours can be reduced without any cuts in wages. There is no other way: for everyone to have a job, we must all work less!
Does this have a cost? Yes. But just last year, the 40 biggest French companies raked in some 80 billion euros in profits. That's the equivalent of more than two million jobs at 1,800 euros per month—including social contributions. That's more than enough money!
And that includes Renault, a company which, according to the French minister of the economy is "playing its last card". Renault made headlines in February when it announced a loss of 140 million euros. But over the previous ten years, it had gathered a total profit of 24 billion euros. Renault was then making headway exploiting its employees, from the worst-paid temporary workers to top engineers.
The past and present profits upon which shareholders built their fortunes must now be used to maintain jobs and wages. The same is true of public money.
During the coronavirus lockdown, the state put tens of billions on the table to guarantee the affairs of shareholders and capitalists. It also stepped in and bailed out big business when it agreed to pay unemployment benefits to 12 million furloughed workers. And it will continue to cater to the wealthy through various recovery plans, like the seven billion loan to Air France and the five billion one to Renault. So, what is the state waiting for? The public money that is in the government's hands must be used to sustain the jobs and wages of workers wherever they be—including in the smallest workplaces!
Some will say that it can't be done because it goes against competitiveness and the basic principles of capitalism. The purpose of these principles is to enrich a minority, even if it means destroying jobs and condemning working people to poverty. Under capitalism, everything is transformed into a source of profit. Public services, including hospitals, are permanently submitted to the logic of capitalism and profit-making which as we’ve seen can only lead to disaster. By the same token, capital owners are slowly destroying the planet.
From the workers' point of view, the redistribution of work to all working people without wage loss is the only response that will guarantee their survival. If we don't want to be condemned to live off the crumbs left by a social class on the brink of bankruptcy, we must take the matter into our own hands!