The Spark

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

France:
Continental Tire Workers’ Trial of Strength

May 4, 2009

Continental Tire Company announced that it intends to close its factory north of Paris in 2010.

As a consequence of a demonstration at a government office in the town of Compiegne on April 21, seven workers received a legal summons by the judicial police on April 27th. On that day, 500 Continental workers had invaded the government offices to express their anger. The French Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior called for arrests. The media echoed the government in speaking about “vandalism” when some windows were broken and some computers were overturned. But that same media fails to speak of the “violence” when the bosses throw thousands of workers into the street!

When the judicial proceedings were announced against these seven workers, workers decided to go immediately to the police station in the town of Creil. There 600 workers rallied, joined by the city’s mayor and elected officials. The delegation, which was immediately received by the heads of the departmental police and judicial inquiry, demanded that the prosecution of the seven workers be dropped. That evening the prosecution gave in to this demand. This rapid mobilization of 600 protestors was a demonstration of force.

Since March 11, the day when the head of Continental announced the factory closing at Clairoix, 1,120 workers there have been fighting to get guarantees for their future. Their demands have been for the payment of wages until 2012; special provisions for those over age 50; and a $260,000 lump sum for each worker.

For weeks, workers demanded that company and government officials meet with them. It took until the evening of April 21, just after the Continental workers’ explosion of anger, for government officials to call a meeting for April 29.

For the company’s part, the head of the Clairoix factory decided to send the workers home on April 21, using the pretext of the absence of security due to broken windows at the guard shacks. Normally, management knew that by locking workers out it had to pay the workers 100%. But it tried to spend nothing since the company bragged, in writing, that it had an agreement with the government that the wages of the 1,120 locked-out workers would be paid out of the unemployment fund. This would save Continental at least 6.5 million dollars!

And the State had just said a short time before that it wouldn’t spend a penny for Continental!

In any case, three days after 1,000 Continental workers left for Hanover, Germany to demonstrate with the Continental workers there, there were again 600 workers at Creil. These workers prepared to demonstrate again under the windows of the Minister at Bercy on April 29.

Everyone understands that the only language the State and the bosses know is that of the relationship of forces.