Masked… but not gagged!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
August 31, 2020

With the virus still around and the threat of a second wave looming, the government has devoted most of its “back-to-school” week to repeating its health recommendations. Macron and Castex have, yet again, set out to remind the public of the importance of physical distancing and wearing a mask and of how grandmas and grandpas are particularly at risk– as if we were children or dummies!
They can go on and lecture us all right – but they still haven’t made masks free! They say its each individual’s responsibility to do the right thing, but that’s a way of hiding their own shortcomings. The health crisis we’ve been going through has been dramatic, causing more than 30,000 people to die. Yet the government hasn’t learned from its mistakes or adopted any of the vital measures needed to face a new outbreak of contamination.
They didn’t do the right thing in hospitals. They didn’t do the right thing in nursing homes. They didn’t do the right thing in schools either.
If the recent promise to create 7,500 jobs in hospitals is ever honored, it will still be far from the number of jobs actually needed. This government has refused to give hospital workers the 300-euro increase they demanded following lockdown – only 180 euros were granted, and not to everyone. But handing over hundreds of billions to big business was apparently not a problem. This is revolting and it goes to show that public health and hospitals are clearly not the government’s priority.
Nursing homes haven’t been treated any better. The minister of health has announced the creation of a new branch in the social security system that will be dedicated to old age. So what? Where are the jobs that are so desperately needed in retirement homes? Many facilities don’t even have a nurse or a doctor on call 24 hours a day. Medical staff is lacking, workers in charge of organizing activities for the residents are lacking – and their wages are far too low. Nothing has been done to improve the situation and some residents are starting to suffer the horrors of isolation all over again because they can no longer leave their rooms or see anyone.
The board of education is just as passive and careless. Be it in primary or secondary schools, no extra staff were recruited to ensure that schools would be properly cleaned and disinfected. No extra school nurses or doctors were hired, no extra teachers either. More teachers would mean smaller class sizes which makes a huge difference when it comes to enforcing physical-distancing and helping students catch up with their learning.
Since masks are now mandatory for all members of staff and all pupils above the age of 11, the government has decided that maintaining physical distance is not that important after all, and who cares if students from different classes mix together. According to the minister, "Everything can go back to normal". If we have to resort to quarantines and remote learning again, teachers, parents and students will be left to cope on their own, just as they were last March.
This exceptional situation requires exceptional measures, starting with massive job creations. But for the government, that is out of the question, even though millions of unemployed people want to work! How crazy is that? And every day, the ministers dare proclaim that fighting unemployment is their priority.
On Thursday, the government will make its recovery plan official. The state is ready to pour 100 billion euros into the economy, i.e. the equivalent of 2.7 million jobs paid 1,800 euros per month, including social contributions. But instead of directly creating these jobs in vital sectors of society, it will, once again, line the pockets of the big companies’ shareholders.
Through public subsidies, tax breaks and cuts in contributions, the state will help the bourgeoisie restore its profits. No wonder the Medef – France’s major employers’ association – is so happy: the government is doing its utmost to boost stock market prices and give speculators, once again, fresh money to play with.
Tens of thousands of jobs are being destroyed, wages are being cut, living conditions are worsening, but Macron’s sole obsession is to save the profits of the privileged!
Exceptional measures and the billions that go with them are reserved for capitalists. Those billions will further increase the fortunes of an already wealthy minority. All of this goes against the fundamental interests of the working class and of society as a whole. The population’s interests require a totally different plan.
Against layoffs, work must be distributed among all without any reduction in wages. Against the rapid rise of unemployment, jobs must be created in health, education and transport.
Those jobs would not generate profits for the capitalist class: they would be useful for all, they would increase everybody’s general well-being, they would meet the most essential needs of society and the world of labor. No to the government's plan to boost profits! Let's defend our interests as workers!