The government unveiled the outlines of the coming reform of unemployment benefits. “Everything is open for negotiation” says the Minister for Labour… as long as this results in an additional €3-4 billion in savings within three years. All possible reforms will mean a decrease in benefits for the unemployed.
Just “cross the street”?
According to this government and to the previous ones, the people responsible for unemployment are… the unemployed! “If you are willing and motivated to work in hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, construction (…), I can cross the street and find you a job” Macron recently said to a young unemployed horticulturist. Such arrogance might push people to take to the street, rather than cross the street.
No, the employers are responsible for unemployment. The main ones are the large corporation bosses who keep laying off or cutting jobs, and then use subcontractors or precarious work contracts. In 2017, more than 90 % of hiring were on fixed term contracts, with 80 % being less than a month.
Occasional workers are too rich for Macron
People with occasional work receive both wages and unemployment benefits. Their number has skyrocketed, increasing by 60 % between 2012 and 2017. There are 1.7 million people going from one short contract to the next (280,000 are on a contract lasting less than a month). The government plans to stop the possibility of having short contracts and receiving unemployment benefits. The government also wants to take down the system allowing people with multiple employers (home carers for example) from receiving benefits when they lose a contract.
The people who struggle with several small jobs, Macron wants to make them pay. But if wages were high enough, only one full time job would be enough and there wouldn’t be a need to complement wages with unemployment benefits.
The government also plans to change the rules used to calculate benefits; it will increase the speed of the gradual benefit decline with time unemployed, thus cutting the total amount paid. It will also worsen the criterion for “reasonable job offers” that the unemployed cannot refuse or else lose their benefits. They will have to take the first offer from the unemployment office, even the worst one, with the lowest pay and far from home.
On the other hand, the “bonus-penalty” system on corporate tax, which the government had mentioned as a way to punish companies abusing the use of short-term contracts, is already almost forgotten.
These attacks call for a global response
These attacks against the unemployed threaten all workers. After passing laws to facilitate layoffs, increasing social security contributions, which are now paid by many retirees, and announcing a reform of pension benefits, the government continues its class war.
At the same time, the government accelerates the job cuts in the public sector, with the number of public servants down by 120,000 in 2022, including 2,600 job cuts in secondary education in 2019. Subsidised jobs, which already decreased from 450,000 to 200,000, will again be halved next year. A weird way to fight unemployment.
We need a global response of the working class. Many union confederations are calling for an interprofessional strike, involving both private and public sectors, on October 9th. This is a first opportunity to take to the streets. And, importantly, to prepare what happens next: a real fight of all workers together against the attacks from the government and the bosses.