The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

CEO Tavares Went Too Far

Oct 24, 2022

The following translation is an account of a September 28 strike at a Stellantis-PSA factory in Mulhouse, France.

This article is translated from the October 6th issue, #2827 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers' group of that name active in France.

It has been a long time since employees at the PSA site in Mulhouse, France had such a big walkout: 1,300 on September 28. For months, the rise in prices had been talked about. Militants around the CGT union addressed co-workers during breaks, by giving speeches, or during bus rides. Few workers, at first, believed that wages would be raised.

The solutions put forward for running out of money at the end-of-month were freezing prices, the reduction of taxes, and receiving a one-time bonus. Many wondered why insist on asking for pay raises that the boss had been refusing for years?

But even if workers didn’t believe it, the idea was still gaining ground. After the announcement of profits of eight billion euros for the first half of 2022, many expected ... the icing on the cake in the form of a wage increase. Companies less wealthy than Stellantis had given raises to their employees.

On September 27th, negotiations with management on purchasing power gave birth to a tiny 1,000 euros bonus, with zero euros of permanent wage increase. This proposal led to incomprehension and disgust .…

After a rally in the morning, at the initiative of the CGT union, a hundred workers from one department, including a majority of temporary workers, (who would get even less than 1,000 euros) and about 50 workers from another department, decided to strike on the afternoon shift. They were soon joined by workers from another department. Many were employees not used to going out during walkouts: it made everyone say that something was really happening. A hundred paraded through the workplace, and decided to meet to plan for the next day.

Unions like FO or the CFDT also sensed that something was happening, and joined the CGT. With a strike call from several unions, workers could more easily take the plunge. Thus, on the next day, the 28th, a whole big group of workers and skilled trades left their tools or their keys, saying, "Tavares has gone too far, he has spat in our faces—so much effort for crumbs!" Even unions that refused to call a strike, such as the CFTC or the CFE-CGC, could not oppose the participation of their members.

The workers who experienced the seven-week renewable strike in 1989 could not believe their eyes, and everyone else was surprised to see so many people out.

When you lose all the time, you don’t imagine winning. To achieve real wage increases, workers will have to be at least as determined as the workers of 1989. These rallies, these walkouts, are steps where workers learn to rely on each other to better organize. For years, some have spread division. Today and tomorrow, the workers in the factory will have to build unity.