France: Force the Government and the Bosses to Back Off!

Protesters gathered at Place de la République in Paris for a mass rally and strike against pension reform on January 19, 2023. Image source: Alain Jocard, AFP via France 24

January 16, 2023 editorial of the workplace newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA). Translated from French.

The government keeps repeating “we are living longer, so we have to work longer.” But only when we work less do we live longer! When you’re a worker, your life span is not the same as that of a minister or a CEO. And very often, bosses lay people off before the current retirement age of 62, condemning seniors to underpaid precarious jobs, unemployment benefits or retirement pensions that are insufficient for a life of dignity. Their plan for us is simple: make us work to death, or end up in poverty!

Faced with this, we need a unified response from all employees and young people, who have nothing but this lousy future to look forward to.

Working Longer for the Bosses: The Answer is No

President Macron is condemning us to two more years of hard labor: two more years on the line, in workshops, offices, hospital services and transport… But this reform is tailor-made for the big bosses, just like the unemployment insurance reform, that reduced the duration of compensation.

On the one hand, slashing the state’s budgets for social services serves to feed massive subsidies to big business. On the other hand, these reforms will make all employees’ jobs more precarious: throwing the youth and the seniors out of work and cutting off their means to make a living helps to keep wages down in this time when inflation is continuing and strikes for wage increases are multiplying. The postponement of the retirement age to 64 will force some older employees to wear out their health on the job, while young people hunt for jobs.

Other seniors will have to remain unemployed for years before being able to retire, or be subject to a cut that will reduce their pension. This is particularly true for women, who are often disadvantaged by part-time jobs.

All workers are against this reform. The ministers are trying to justify it by talking about the pension funds’ deficit. But if we are looking for money to finance pensions, all we have to do is increase salaries… or take from the 80 billion euros of profit given to the shareholders of the CAC 40 companies (French stock market) last year!

Who wants to work for 43 years and to the age of 64, when the average workers’ life expectancy, in good health, is 65? Nobody!

Let’s All Work Together to Make Them Back Down!

President Macron and the Medef (bosses’ alliance) have declared war on us. They want to take their revenge after having failed to pass their previous reform on the points-based pension. It’s up to us to make them retreat, as we did in the winter of 2019.

Frozen wages, worsening working conditions, retirement at 64: all employees are suffering under the employers’ attack, and the government is at their service. Faced with this, we must use our weapons as workers: demonstrations and strikes, organized from the bottom up at our workplaces. Unionized and non-unionized workers, from all sectors, let’s organize with general assemblies of strikers and picket lines; let’s elect strike committees and build links with others to construct a coordinated struggle of workers. We need to choose our demands ourselves in order to build our own movement so that the strike belongs to the strikers!

The trade union leaderships are calling for an inter-professional strike on Thursday, January 19. Better late than never… We must be massively on strike and demonstrate on that day. We also call for a national demonstration on Saturday, January 21 for the withdrawal of the retirement reform. Youth organizations, including the NPA-Youth, initiated this demonstration, and several political organizations are in support. This is only the beginning, because a one-day strike with a day of demonstration won’t force the employers and their government to back down. Nor will a few scattered days of protest. We must start discussing follow-up actions to these strikes, and in particular the need to build to a general strike for all public and private sector workers. The fight is on, and we will have to rely on our own strength to win. The government is determined? So are we!