The Spark

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

France:
Auto Bosses Give in

May 27, 2013

The following is translated from the May 24th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On May 17th, the strikers of the PSA (Peugeot) factory in Aulnay, a Paris suburb, voted to suspend their strike which began January 17th. They asked the two unions involved in the strike, the CGT and CFDT, to sign an agreement ending the strike.

According to the agreement, four workers fired for a “serious offense,” in reality for striking, are back and have the right to all payments the strikers are getting. Management also agreed not to fire three union delegates against whom they were pressing charges.

Management’s Retreat

In the course of the four months of the strike, the PSA bosses and their hired agents filed dozens of legal complaints, which they decided to drop. Further, the strikers, who feared that they would be discriminated against in applying for a severance plan, got written guarantees on transfers to other plants. The strikers won money to cover some of the time they were on strike. Those who leave PSA before May 31st will get $26,000. This is added to the severance agreement, which depends on seniority, but is about $52,000 for a worker with 10 years who earned $2,600 a month. On average, the strikers leaving PSA will get about $78,000.

Further, the strike allowed all PSA workers in the country to receive higher unemployment benefits than management had offered before the strike, as well as early out provisions.

Winning all these things made the non-striking union members of the SIA, CFTC and FO mad, those unions who up to then said that the best thing was to accept the layoffs and do nothing.

An Active and Democratic Strike

Certainly, it wasn’t possible for the strikes to prevent the factory from closing, even if they never stopped denouncing the havoc that represented. That was impossible for 200 or even 500 strikers, given the combined power of the Peugeot family and the Socialist Party in power nationally, which did all it could for the company, including using the CRS (the national tactical police)! That would have required a different relation of forces, which mobilized not only all the Aulnay workers, but at least those of PSA throughout the country.

But the main acquisitions of the strike weren’t limited to the improvement in the severance agreement and the May 17th agreement.

For four months, the strikers held their heads high. While so many workers are being laid off without defending themselves collectively, the PSA strikers waged a ceaseless war against the Peugeot family. With the support of many non-strikers, they paralyzed production at Aulnay. They organized demonstrations, alone and with other workers (Goodyear, Virgin, Presstalis ...) and visited other factories (PSA at Saint-Ouen and Poissy, Renault at Flins and Cléon, Lear, Geodis, Faurecia, Air France, etc.). They called for all the workers of the country to support a ban on layoffs. They financed their strike by receiving some $1,040,000, thanks to the solidarity of tens of thousands of workers, which allowed them to hold out. They had many actions, announced in advance or by surprise, against PSA, the national bosses’ association and the government, all of whom were angry at being challenged.

Further, from beginning to end, this strike was led in a democratic manner, consciously, by the workers themselves. Meeting daily, sometimes twice a day, in general assemblies, they made decisions. A strike committee was set up at the beginning of the strike, following the struggle committee that had existed after the July 2012 announcement that the factory would close. It was open to all strikers and met almost daily to discuss everything, from sandwiches and meals to collections, the actions to be carried out and many problems raised by the strike.

The Fight Continues

On May 21st, the strikers came together to demonstrate on the shop floor, showing that, even if the strike was suspended, the fight continues. And they decided to get together in a week for a new general assembly – because it was necessary to be mobilized so that PSA would keep its commitment.

A section of the strikers will leave the factory in the days to come. Others are going to remain several months in Aulnay, where they count on continuing to fight at the side of their work mates, to get the least bad conditions to leave on when the plant closes on December 31, 2013. Those who remain will then transfer to other PSA factories, in Poissy, Saint-Ouen, etc. Still others are going to try to get hired at the Paris bus and subway system, the national railroad or the Paris Airport.

Everyone learned many things in this struggle – on a militant level, on a human level, on a political level. The ties that unite them aren’t about to be dissolved. All maintain an immense pride in this four-month strike. All remain determined to pursue ceaselessly the workers’ struggle against the limitless greed of the bosses.