We need a battle plan for our pay!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
October 24, 2022

There’s gas at the pump. Trains are running. Garbage is being collected. And people taking a mid-term break can have a few days’ rest. It’s enough for the government to pat itself on the back and say things are back to normal.

They think it’s normal that people find it more and more difficult to make ends meet due to skyrocketing prices, that more and more unemployed people have their back to the wall!

Buses and trains are cancelled because there are no resources, material or human? That’s normal! Pediatric ERs are having to send babies hundreds of kilometers away to receive treatment? Get used to it!

And then there are those who can’t afford three meals a day or who can’t use their car because gas costs too much. The government finds that normal too.

Meanwhile, the energy fat cats are getting fatter by pushing up electricity and natural gas prices. And to get rich, speculators aren’t holding back: prices have been multiplied by 10, sometimes more. They’re driving numerous businesses and small companies into bankruptcy. They’re driving the economy into a serious crisis and the government isn’t going to stop them.

Economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, says he’s not happy! Apparently he has even given the CEO of TotalEnergies a stern look. But he remains devoted to the capitalists. His policy doesn’t include requisitioning megaprofits but it does include requisitioning strikers to stop social protest! The capitalists will continue to destroy everything.

For decades, the state has been able to mitigate the damage caused by capitalist greed by spreading a safety net for the poorest. Because France is a rich country, there was room for maneuver. With every crisis, that possibility has shrunk and public debt has expanded.

It’s made all the more serious by how powerless Macron is against the war and the energy crisis. But, like the good anti-worker president he is, he’s held on to one reflex: bashing the workers and imposing more sacrifices on them. A return to normal isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Society is going from one zone of turbulence to another. Discontent in the working class is causing workers to join the struggle, to walk out or strike, whether it be in a department, a workshop, a company or a whole group.

As we saw with the mobilization in oil refineries, a strike can quickly start a chain reaction and cause a more generalized movement. It’s obvious to all workers, public and private sector alike, whatever their pay level: their buying power is decreasing because their pay isn’t keeping up with skyrocketing prices.

The big bosses have chosen a battle of wills by refusing to have pay keep up with prices. We need to fight that battle!

To have some hope of winning, we need to develop a battle plan. The bosses have one. They plan to attack the workers and make exploitation worse. To make their plan work, they even pay an army of managers and assistant managers. And if this provokes unrest, they can use the threat and repressive force of the state, its bailiffs, police and judiciary.

The will to defend ourselves is not enough. The workers need to develop a fight policy so that they know how to unite their forces on the demands that they consider legitimate.

What do we need? A bonus that will immediately be swallowed up leaving us to struggle with bottom-level basic pay? Of course not! It’s our basic pay that counts every month to pay rent and bills and to negotiate a loan. Our retirement pension and unemployment pay are calculated from it.

That’s why it’s basic pay that should be increased. And by at least 400 euros per month, to fill the gap created by price increases. And the only way to guarantee that prices don’t immediately swallow up our pay rise, is to demand that pay be indexed to the real price increases, not the ones that the government is selling us.

And we need to talk about how to lead the fight ourselves. At TotalEnergies, two unions that are against the strike (the CGC and the CFDT) signed an agreement with management against the wishes of the strikers. Even if the workers are determined to fight, we should remember that the union apparatus will want to have control and are ready to sell out the fight for peanuts. If we’re committed to the struggle, let’s give ourselves what it takes to keep control!

Nathalie Arthaud