France: Beyond the Parliamentary Circus, A Need to Fight for Our Wages

Fuel prices in France

August 1, 2022, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA, Translated from French

The National Assembly (French Parliament) has passed a bill in “support” of purchasing power. In reality, the Senate just voted on a few modifications… While there’s a lot of ink in the press, there’s not much more money in our accounts. At the same time, in July, inflation rose more than 6% over one year, the highest level since 1984, and what will it be by the end of this year? The price hikes are mainly on the price of our daily consumption needs, such as energy and food products.

Speeches and a War Economy

While prices are skyrocketing for all workers, on July 14 French President Emmanuel Macron said that he was against a general increase in salaries, and instead in favor of individual sector negotiations… in order to raise the pay of all jobs to the minimum wage if they aren’t there yet. Macron likes to talk about money, and has long touted his point of view on the need to increase the army’s budget, boasting that he had already granted a 26 billion euro increase during his previous five-year term. Three major objectives are being pursued: the ability to face an intense conflict (i.e., with an industrialized country with high military technology, such as Russia), to intervene in the Middle East and Africa under the pretext of fighting terrorism, and to place his pawns in Ukraine. The goal is simple: to build up stocks of military equipment, to produce more, and in greater quantities. Macron, who constantly cries about the need to reduce government spending, did not talk about how this policy would be financed. Nothing is too expensive in this promised “war economy,” but we are forced to accept “sobriety” with our energy use, especially gas, which the Russian state could cut off.

The “Purchasing Power” Bill doesn’t Make us Whole at All

As discussed in the Parliamentary Assemblies, this purchasing power bill only includes a few small measures: a 4% increase of retirement pensions and social benefits, an increase in the allowance for disabled adults (in 2023!), a revaluation of personal housing benefits (APL), a cap on the revaluation of rents (3.5% in metropolitan France, 2% in the former overseas French colonies), support of an 18 cent per liter fuel reduction (raised to 30 cents in September, lowered to 10 cents in November) … Some philanthropists, such as Total (French gas company), are “generously” granting a 12 cent per liter reduction for July and August. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Nothing is permanent, and above all nothing is there to solve the problem, or even to hope for an effective catch up with inflation. The message is clear: to get by, you will have to work harder. This is the meaning of the “monetization” of the Reduction of Working Time (RTT) found in the bill. (In France, based on a 35-hour workweek, employees are entitled to 30 days’ vacation. Under this new bill, some employees will be able to redeem RTT for a tax exemption.) As if those with jobs are not already working enough. The vote on these measures in the National Assembly has led to heated discussions. The Republicans voted for many of the measures, but of course they haggled a bit just to prove they exist in the Parliament. Le Pen’s National Rally (a far-right political party) showed, once again, its anti-worker nature and voted with the government against wage increases. The New Ecological and Social People’s Union (new French left-wing alliance) rages, abstains, votes against, tables many amendments, but in the end it did not lead to much. Moreover, it is the Left that repealed France’s sliding wage scale of 1952 to 1982.

Fight to Impose Immediate Demands

In recent months strikes have broken out to demand real wage increases: 300 euros per month for all, as per the strike demand of the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport workers. We are no longer satisfied with bonuses. Just as a reminder: in 2021, the CAC 40 (French stock market) pocketed 174 billion in profits. Without an overall movement, we can only suffer under the attacks of the employers and government. We must make our emergency measures heard and imposed:

  • A uniform increase of at least 300 euros to all salaries, social benefits and pensions, as demanded by the strikers at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
  • No income below 1,800 euros
  • Hiring in all sectors in line with needs
  • An increase in salaries, allowances and pensions at the same rate as inflation