France: Organizing Against Layoffs: A Vital Emergency

Image credit: Christophe Meneboeuf / pixabay

December 10, 2020 workplace editorial of LEtincelle:

The health crisis is the perfect opportunity for large companies to announce their restructuring while receiving billions in public aid. Le Monde (a French Newspaper) thus recorded 35,664 layoffs announced between September and November. Among the biggest licensees are Sodexo, Elior, Disneyland, Bridgestone, IBM, Danone, PSA, Total, Société Générale, and Gap. These companies are far from being on their last legs, and in fact, are not even all affected by the decline in economic activity linked to shelter in place rules. 

Devastating Lockdown

The Ministry of Labor, for its part, has 657 employment “safeguard” plans (PSE), affecting 67,065 jobs, initiated between March 2 and November 22, 2020, to which are added 4,902 collective dismissal procedures outside the “safeguard” plans (PSE), of which 90% are in companies with fewer than 10 employees. 

This is only the tip of the iceberg, because if we add to this the end of fixed-term or temporary contracts, “voluntary” departure plans, delayed or canceled hires, 634,000 salaried jobs have disappeared in the private sector during the first half of the year, according to INSEE. Even though there were rehires during the summer, with the end of the lockdown and the partial restart of activity, there are 234,000 fewer jobs left in the third quarter of 2020 than a year earlier. (For reference, the population in France is 60 million people).

The spring lockdown was particularly devastating for young people, with nearly one in ten of them losing their job in May, according to INSEE. Temporary workers were used as an adjustment variable: 318,000 temporary jobs were lost overnight at the end of March (40% of them!). Their number then started to rise again in the second quarter, while permanent contracts continued to fall: first laid off, first rehired… to be laid off again if necessary. There is still a shortage of 81,000 temporary jobs compared to a year ago. 

In some companies, employees have started to react, such as General Electric in Villeurbanne, which has been on strike for more than two weeks, or those of Cargill and TUI, which have been the starting point for meetings to coordinate the struggles. These are initiatives that need to be repeated everywhere in order to reverse the balance of forces.