The Spark

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

France:
The struggle against job insecurity is the order of the day

Mar 27, 2006

The French government announced it would eliminate various job protections. In France, up until now, workers who passed their probation period could not legally be fired without cause. This affects all workers in the country, no matter what company they work for and whether or not there is a union.

The various job security laws have been chipped away at for some time, but the current government decided to make a major change. It made an open attack on young workers, those under age 26. With the new law, a young worker can be fired any time for two years for no reason at all. This provoked a response of big protests among first university and high school students and then workers throughout France.

The following editorial appeared in the March 24 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary group of that name active in France.

The March 18 demonstrations brought together university students, high school students (including those from the so-called “tough” neighborhoods), workers and parents. Their success shows that more and more workers and future workers want a quick end to the government’s plans to make their situation more precarious.

The CPE (a job contract for youth employed for the first time) may have been the detonator to this expression of anger, but it was not the only cause. Many of the demonstrators also called for the end of the CNE (New Hire Contract – for workplaces under 20 workers), which contains a two-year trial period during which time the employer can lay off a worker of any age without having to give a reason.

These two measures follow in the pattern of previous contracts, which have allowed the bosses to hire temporary workers for set periods of time. These contracts, already used for the past few years, mean that job insecurity has spread to more and more of the work force.

The bosses and the government dare to say these measures are necessary because of the poor state of the economy. It’s a lie! For the owners and for the stockholders, the economy is doing very well: the large companies have announced record profits, and they have distributed record dividends. But these profits are produced off the backs of the workers. Wages are held down, working and living conditions are deteriorating, job insecurity and mass unemployment are introduced – all a result of the bosses’ drive for profits over the last 30 years and of governments that served them.

It is urgent to put an immediate end to this backward movement.

The college and high school students who are in struggle have firmly stated their intention to carry out more demonstrations in the coming days.

But it is the working class, without whom nothing functions, that has the real social force capable of imposing a change in policy. The union federations, along with the student organizations, have decided to organize a “day of action on Tuesday, March 28 with work stoppages, strikes and demonstrations,” to continue the demonstrations of March 18. Even a very successful day of demonstrating will not be enough to impose a change in policy. But it could allow people who are hesitant to regain confidence in the force workers possess, and in their capacity to respond strongly and to react against the unending offensive being carried out against the working class by the government and the bosses.

The leaders of the union federations are more concerned to force the bosses and the government to negotiate with them than they are with engaging a determined battle to get rid of all these measures eliminating job security. The size and determination of the student demonstrations led the union federation leaders to openly demand the government withdraw the CPE. In the same way, a massive participation by workers on March 28th is the best way to prevent these union leaders from leaving the protests at a single day’s actions with nothing to follow it.

Laurence Parisot, the president of the bosses’ association MEDEF, had the nerve recently to praise the lack of job security, saying that, “in life, everything is uncertain.” Well, it is time to demonstrate to her and those like her that profits extorted from the workers by playing on the fear of layoffs can also be “uncertain”; that workers are not going to accept that the bosses accumulate riches while the majority of the population becomes poorer.