The Spark

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

France:
Airport Security Workers Strike

Jan 9, 2012

The following article is translated from the December 30th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On December 26th, 250 airport security agents, in their eleventh day on strike, voted to continue the strike. By now, almost everyone has learned about the situation of these airport contract workers. They work seven days out of seven, even Sunday, for hardly more than the minimum monthly salary. They’re forced to work long stretches at a time, standing, without a cafeteria or a decent break room. Others work part time with only four hours work per day. Their revolt made itself heard, and that’s the success of their strike.

Yes, the workers have made themselves respected and this week they saw management back down step by step. Government officials wanted to prevent the agents from marching in the terminals, and so they mobilized police, equipped like Robocops. Well, for ten days, the strikers met in the big hall of one of the terminals and 400 to 500 of them went through all the terminals, addressing the other workers and the passengers, and denouncing the presence of police at their work stations.

So the arrogant bosses of the security companies who didn’t want to discuss had to open national negotiations. They didn’t want to speak about money, and they also had to give in on this.

But the negotiations gave rise to a funny comedy! The first two sessions, where nothing resulted, were held at the big Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, where the workers came in with a big delegation of strikers. This profoundly displeased the government’s Minister of Transportation, Mariani. So the bosses and the government mediator moved the negotiations 18 miles away to Gare du Nord in Paris, and limited it to union representatives. Nevertheless, striking unionists from the airport were present, keeping their fellow workers up to date and making their voices heard. This irritated one the bosses who said, “This isn’t a direct democracy here.” Yes, that’s right!

The bosses, while refusing any negotiations over the demand of a raise of 200 Euros a month ($260) and payment for strike days, ended up proposing on Christmas eve to double the individual performance bonus, up to a month’s pay – but with only 400 euros guaranteed, and the rest submitted to unpredictable and arbitrary criteria, just like before. Further, this bonus isn’t paid to those with less than one year of seniority – which is the case with many workers due to the high turnover. But at the very end, the bosses added an increase of 1.6 euros a day to the basic bonus, equivalent to a 370 euro ($480) increase a year. Finally, they said they’d keep 100% of the workers in case there’s a change in contractors, which hadn’t been the case before. But they had the effrontery to pose an ultimatum: if their proposal wasn’t accepted by noon the next day, Saturday, it would be withdrawn!

Despite that, the strike continued. On Saturday, more than 50% of the 4,000 workers were on strike, and on Sunday, 38% of the Paris airports were on strike, despite double time pay for the day. The strikers refused this proposal, deciding it wasn’t what they demanded.

But on December 26th, unions other than the CGT (General Confederation of Labor) signed the agreement, often against the advice of their elected union stewards at the big De Gaulle airport, and of the general assemblies. Many expressed their anger against the unions signing.

If the strikers weren’t able to obtain what they demanded, they nonetheless got an agreement which affects the 10,000 workers at all the security companies at the country’s airports. They made the bosses retreat. They are proud of their struggle and of being heard by all the country’s workers.