Facing soaring prices, Let’s Fight for Our Wages

CGT members demonstrating on October 5, 2021.

September 12, 2022, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), Translated from French

War, inflation, climate catastrophe, risk of recession… In the wake of the pandemic, capitalism is accumulating its plagues. French President Macron is now announcing the “end of abundance and recklessness.” Every French minister has his own advice for us to avoid power cuts this winter, and the government spokesman, Olivier Véran, is encouraging us to put on a sweater so we can turn down the heat. This is a very arrogant way to prepare for the coming attack against us in the working classes!

What kind of recklessness is he talking about? That of the rich who pollute the planet with their private jets? The richest 10% are responsible for half of the world’s CO2 emissions. They get exemptions to water their golf courses in the middle of a drought, or to continue buying Ferraris or Lamborghinis when it’s announced that gas-powered cars will be banned in Europe in 2035.

What do they care that the planet is burning? What do they care if deadly floods follow the heat wave? This is particularly disastrous in the poorest countries, as is currently the case in Pakistan, where more than 1,300 people have been killed. In France, INSEE (The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) estimates that 14% of the French population will experience at least twenty abnormally hot days each summer in the coming decades. The poorest will suffer the worst consequences due to poorly insulated housing. The same people who, in winter, have to choose between heating or eating.

Cents for some, billions for others

As to the society’s riches, they certainly are not shared equally. Wages and pensions have been and continue to be melting away in the face of inflation, which has already reached 6% in a year. The bosses find any excuse to raise prices: the invasion of Ukraine (but the rise in energy prices had started long before this!), transportation costs, parts shortages, etc. The reality is that rising prices drive profits directly. In the second quarter of 2022, big companies broke records for dividends paid to their shareholders once again. In the auto industry, Stellantis (the result of the merger of French car companies, PSA and Fiat-Chrysler) increased its profits by 34% in the first half of 2022 compared to 2021, even as sales declined.

When we hear our politicians talking about imposing a tax on the super-profits of oil and shipping companies, it’s just hypocrisy. Even the columnist at the business daily, Les Échos, stated that this “is neither incongruous nor abnormal.” If this ends up being just an opportunity to give additional tax cuts to all companies, and allowing corporations to redistribute their profits, it’s just a scam.

The urgency is to raise wages

The government’s main concern is to prevent a real increase in salaries, to keep employers from having to dig into their pockets! And it is to put more and more pressure on the unemployed, to force them to accept any precarious and underpaid job, while announcing the umpteenth unemployment reform. The employers are complaining about the shortage of workers in industry, construction, buses, health care… Well then, how about increasing wages and improving working conditions?

Wages need to increase by at least 300 or 400 euros to catch up with prices; this is essential to keep up with the rise in cost of living, and it will have to be imposed on the employers. In recent weeks, the British workers have set an example with massive strikes. In France there were many strikes at the beginning of the summer, but they were isolated. This fall, those in public transportation will show that the anger is there. These strikes need to multiply and unite in order make real gains.

Some union leaderships are calling for a mobilization on September 29. Let’s seize the opportunity to make this first warning a massive one. But above all, let’s prepare for what comes next: let’s discuss and organize ourselves to fight back all together as hard as possible.