The Fight Against Layoffs in France

The strike at Citroën Aulnay

In France, just like in the U.S., the big auto companies are using the economic crisis to attack workers. Here we’ve already seen that the big auto companies such as GM and Ford have laid off thousands of workers. GM has used its supposed bankruptcy to destroy workers jobs and benefits. Today workers at GM start at $11-14 per hour, where they used to make $28 per hour. And every step along the way the U.S. government aided the auto companies, giving out  billions of dollars in bailouts.

The French auto companies, PSA Citroën and Renault are trying to do to the same thing to workers. They want to carry out a so-called “restructuring” of the French auto industry – they want to catch up with the U.S. auto companies in their attacks on workers. The difference is that in France, workers at some of the biggest auto plants are launching a fight which can not only reverse the attacks on auto workers, but rally all the workers of France in a fight back against the attacks of the bosses and their government.

PSA Citroën Aulnay – The Fight Begins

In July last year, workers at PSA Citroën discovered a plan by management to lay off 8,000 workers across France. Workers at one of the major Citroën plants – the factory at Aulnay, a suburb just north of Paris – decided to fight back. On January 16th this year, workers at Aulnay began a strike against the factory closure. The Aulnay factory ground to a halt as 450 workers from the plant stopped their assembly line and called a strike. This is no passive strike where officials bargain behind closed doors. At Aulnay, the workers elected a strike committee – a team of ordinary workers elected to manage the strike. Every day the workers meet together in the plant to decide what to do, review the decisions of the strike committee and collectively decide to continue the strike.

The Need to Extend the Strike

While workers at PSA Citroën Aulnay were able to stop production at their factory, it became clear that if the strike stayed where it was, then it would be defeated. Citroën’s owners were hoping the workers would give up as week after week they lost their pay.
But Citroën is not the only company where workers are under threat. Renault, the other major car company, is planning to lay off 7,500 workers. And workers from Caterpillar tractors to Goodyear tires and many others face similar threats.

PSA Citroën Workers Reach Out

The PSA Citroën workers have made huge attempts to reach out to other workplaces. They have gone to other factories facing closure. Citroën workers crashed through the gates of Renault’s plant at Flins to hold a joint rally with workers there. Citroën workers have also gone to the major train stations in Paris to talk to workers who are going on their way to work. Their message – we need your support, but we also need to organize a fight back of the whole working class.

The Only Solution – Everyone Together!

The strike has continued for seven weeks. The PSA Citroën workers have received huge public support. Representatives of the striking workers have appeared on television and argued with politicians and media spokesmen. The strikers have received a quarter of a million euros in financial support from sympathetic donations from people around France and elsewhere. So far the strike has shown the bosses at PSA Citroën that the workers are not going to accept the closure of the plant without a fight. Even if the strike remains limited, the pressure on PSA Citroën could force them to offer a bigger buyout to the workers. But if the strike at PSA Citroën can spark a movement of the whole working class against layoffs and attacks, then it could reverse the balance of forces which have led to defeats for the workers. If the workers of France strike together in a coordinated way, they could put an end to unemployment and layoffs. This would set an example for workers all over the world.

The Class War – Us vs Them

In France as in the U.S., workers are under attack, and this strike is just the latest battle in an overall war of the wealthy corporations and banks against the rest of us. Everywhere in the world the problem is the same. Workers are suffering attack after attack because the banks and corporations are organized together and they have a government which is theirs to use against us,  But we do all the work. We make this society run. The working class, all together, has the power to reverse the attacks of the banks and corporations, and to begin to fight for a society where our lives are not dictated by their profits.