Time off, Telecommuting, Part-Time work: We Foot the Bill Again?

April 5, 2021, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA, Translated from French

President Macron announced our third lockdown last week. All child care facilities and schools will close, and the school calendar will change, with vacation moving up, in order to impose one school schedule for all: one week of distance learning, followed by two weeks of vacation. This is one more headache, or even a catastrophe for all working parents. Kids at home means you have to find someone to look after them or have them looked after. Telecommuting with kids in tow? Working, while “home schooling”? And social inequalities are increasing as always: children from working-class backgrounds, those whose parents are already on the front lines, who live in cramped apartments, and do not have the digital equipment adapted to distance learning, will pay a high price.

Always at the bosses’ discretion?

With this new school calendar, telecommuting is supposed to become the rule… but at the whim of the bosses. In some places employees will have to continue coming to work and exposing themselves, while in other jobs it will be required to work from home. Vacations will also be at the whim of the bosses: cancelled, imposed, or stolen… Part-time work is the same: with pay cuts in the end. Now the boss even invites himself into your home, since with telecommunicating your dining room or kitchen is an annex of the company!

The managers at the Renault provide “sound” advice to employees: “post a schedule on the family fridge,” “plan independent activities so the children will be autonomous and you can work in complete serenity” (and Renault is not the only company to do this). Can a parent seriously go half an hour without having to deal with a boo-boo or an argument? Other bosses’ ideas: “No cafeteria during the lockdown? Take advantage of this to divvy up the tasks and assign them to the children to make them more responsible.” Sure!

We are not ignoring the health crisis

It is true that the almost 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, the current rate of 300 deaths per day, the saturation of hospitals and especially intensive care units, require real emergency measures; not the half-measures that have been imposed on us for more than a year now, leading wages to reduced wages, and the deterioration of working and living conditions, while the bosses have continued to profit, especially the largest companies that have authorized mass layoffs.

From Macron’s administration we hear only lying announcements. Promises to reopen all public places starting in mid-May, promises to vaccinate, promises to increase the number of intensive care beds from 7,000 to 10,000, while simultaneously in large hospitals (such as Beaujon-Bichat in Paris), 400 beds are planned to be removed. As the pandemic progresses, it kills around each and every one of us. In an open letter to Macron and Blanquer, his Minister of Education, the teachers of the Eugène Delacroix high school in Drancy (in region 93) warned that twenty parents of students had died in the last year. The death toll, in France as elsewhere, is greater among the poor than among the rich. And in hospitals, the return of patient “triage” is a barely hidden reality.

By gnawing on the brakes too long, we could spin out of control

The death toll is increasing because we continue to pack into workplaces and into often crowded transport systems to get there; because schools have remained open without the necessary staff and without the premises being reorganized into small groups that prevent the virus from circulating. The priority has been to save profits over lives, the burden of the epidemic has weighed in inverse proportion to our social position: the poorer, the more underemployed, the more vulnerable we are, the more we suffer. It won’t last forever. Anger is rising.