September 12: On Strike and in the Streets

Once again, President Macron let drop a comment full of contempt. He declared he would not give in to “lazy people, cynical people, nor extremists”. He plays the role of a self-righteous head of state, ready to force his policy through. But watch for a reaction and the anger of the working class.

The bosses orders

            Every measure in the rulings unveiled at the end of August is a change in labor law that directly attacks workers: low severance pay, increased job insecurity for employees and increased freedom for the bosses to set the rules in their company.

            The head of Medef (the bosses’ union) thinks this is only a “first step”: he wants more. Edouard Philippe, the Prime minister, is already preparing the next step: increase social security contributions, reform retirement and unemployment benefits, and at the same time, all but abolish wealth tax for the rich. The government bends over backward to help the bosses, in the name of rescuing the economy, while the large companies are making record profits: over 50 billion profit for publicly traded companies during the first quarter of 2017, a 25% year over year increase.

            And we should let them do it? Should we listen to the CFDT union that had already endorsed the Work Law in 2016 and does it again? Should we give in as the head of FO invites us to do, despite many FO locals participating in the demonstration on September 12?

We have more than enough reasons to participate in this day of strikes and demonstrations called by the CGT, FSU and Solidaires unions.

The cap on wrongful dismissal compensation will allow employers to proceed to illegal layoff, knowing the cost of doing so will be minimal.

Owners of small companies will be able to make agreements that undercut the minimums fixed by branch agreements. This will allow them to force wages decreases or longer work hours, using layoffs or plant closure as blackmail. This is already being done, often in major companies, and would now become common.

Fixed term contracts duration and the number of times they can be renewed might be changed across branches, according to the bosses’ needs, further increasing job insecurity.

The planned merging of many types of staff representatives (employee representatives, members of works councils, and of health, safety and working conditions committees) aims to transform union reps into official conversation partners of the bosses. They want “social dialog” rather than class struggle.

Killing supported employment

            The government dares speak of a job policy. But it ranks first in job cuts, with a dramatic fall in assisted jobs from 460,000 in 2016 to a planned 310,000 at then end of 2017.

            These jobs mostly belong to the public sector and social services organizations. They provide necessary services: during the back-to-school season, many city councils have been unable to ensure proper operation of school cafeterias or even had to stop providing extracurricular and support activities to slow learners and disabled pupils.

            The day of strikes and demonstrations on September 12 must be a massive success. And there must be others to follow. A day of action on September 21 has already been called by the CGT. Regardless of the separate strategies and disagreements between union confederations, it’s on us to make September 12 a starting point of a general response from the working class.