The Spark

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

France:
Increase wages, a vital necessity for all the workers

Nov 5, 2007

The following is a translation excerpted from the editorial of the November 2 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group active in France.

For five days the strike of Air France flight attendants virtually stopped the airline. The overwhelming majority of flight attendants participated, showing their anger against a 15-year wage freeze, while their work load has never stopped increasing.

Air France had years ago invoked its bad financial situation to impose sacrifices on its personnel. Today, it is one of the more prosperous airline companies. In the first quarter of 2007, its profits increased 70% from the preceding year! But wages are still blocked. The strikers demand that their wages go up. It would only be justice if they obtained it.

This strike, whose breadth clearly surprised the management of Air France, unleashed the usual complaints of "travelers taken hostage" or junk about the "privileges' of the flight attendants – privileged, these workers who start their professional career with 1,300 Euros a month after taxes (about $1900)?

The strike was limited to one category of workers. But the demands of the flight attendants weren't at all limited to those of their category, and the reasons for their discontent aren't limited to one category either.

Flight attendants protest against the reduction of the size of their flight crews while the number of passengers transported increases. They protest against the increase in the number of flights they have to work in a fixed amount of time, without even a premium for night work. But from the factories to the big retail chains, the bosses everywhere seek to impose more work on fewer employees. Through worsening exploitation the bosses ensure growing profits. From auto workers to supermarket cashiers and fight attendants, all categories of workers are driven to exhaustion, wear and tear on their bodies and their nerves, a speed of working that is more and more unsupportable, so the bosses can accumulate still more profits to waste in speculation.

By revolting against the inadequacy of their wages, the flight attendants raise a problem which also concerns all the workers. Everyone suffers from high prices and more deductions from their paychecks, while wages only go up a little or not at all.

Our purchasing power is going down because the bosses don't pay the wage needed to meet basic expenses, beginning with the rent for a decent home. The sole means for the workers to increase their purchasing power is to compel the bosses to take from their profits what is necessary to raise the workers' wages.