France: Back to work: time to fight back

French school buses. Image credit: Kev22 via Wikimedia Commons

August 31, 2022, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA, Translated from French.

For kids, it’s the end of summer vacation. With inflation rising and wages at rock bottom, summer spending had to be monitored closely – for those, that is, who were able to take time off, if the bosses permitted that time off. Or we had to resort to dipping into our savings, because we still deserve a little comfort! But this is not President Macron’s opinion, or that of his government at the service of the bosses: you only have to look at the back-to-school conditions. There won’t be enough bus drivers to take the children to school, and not enough teachers to welcome them. What is wrong with their system?

The RATP (Parisian public bus network) is also short on drivers. The RATP management claims that the waiting times at each station are due to extended breaks because of the heat waves. They have a lot of nerve! It’s the bosses who decided how to organize the work, and it isn’t working. Or rather, we won’t go along anymore. There is no sense in working long hours for a salary that inflation will just eat up; while on the other hand, the rich are getting richer.

No to misery and war

When Macron announced the “end of abundance and carefree living,” we thought he was addressing his buddies who travel by jet, and water their golf courses. But no, it’s us who are being asked to tighten our belts even more! It is the hospital workers who have been, and are still working overtime, due to understaffing. There are drug shortages such that an everyday accident can become a drama. Is this abundance?

Are Macron and his boss friends living in another world? Yes, but they know about our living situations, because they are the ones who organize them, or rather disorganize them. They lecture us on “sobriety,” they would like us to save more from our basic needs, but it is just in order for them to swell their military budget, and the dividends of the CAC40 (French stock market), which continue to grow.

And what does this mean? Should we raise the retirement age even further (an absurd measure, given the rate of unemployment of young people and those over 50)? Should we lower unemployment benefits even further? Or put conditions on welfare benefits based on those actively seeking work, as if we were “rich” at less than six hundred euros per month and as if we were “slackers” who refused to work for peanuts? The internships that already exist illustrate the government’s state of mind: recipients are often asked to travel several days a week, with threats of punishment if they are late, but to arrive at premises where there is nothing to do. This is all to get us to obey the idiotic rules they impose. No thanks!

Our class has already returned to school across the Channel

In England, dockers, postal workers, bus and subway drivers, workers from many sectors, are on strike like they haven’t been for forty years, despite the anti-strike laws of the British government. They are striking against the 12% inflation – which is only impacting wages, because profits are flourishing. Amazon employees have even launched a wildcat strike. This reminds us that the right to strike was conquered through struggle! The press and bourgeois politicians say that lazy people are holding the country hostage. On the contrary, it is the world of work, our social class, that is fighting against the parasites that are sucking its blood.

The example of the English should give us confidence. In 2019 we succeeded in making the government back down when it wanted to cut pensions. So let’s continue organizing in the workplaces. National strike days are planned for September 22 in the health sector, and September 29 for all sectors. In order for them to be successful, and not remain isolated, we must prepare for them now. It is time to adjust wages to keep up with inflation! It is time for mass hiring at better wages. Nothing is stronger than united and determined workers.