The Spark

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

France:
Heat Wave in a Renault Factory

Aug 5, 2019

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

It was dangerously hot in the Paris area on July 24 and 25. Inside the Renault factory in Flins west of Paris, it measured over 109 degrees.

It was hotter near the skylights and tin roofs, near the big presses where workers work on metal, and on the assembly lines. The pace of work had already been dangerous when it was three dozen degrees cooler!

Twenty workers fell out one after another. Some had to be evacuated by first responders. In the Paint department on night shift, workers had to stop working for a shift to get management to shut down one of the two production lines and make breaks longer.

Nothing of vital necessity to society is made in auto assembly plants. Customers can just as well wait a few more days to get the newest model. But management refused to stop production on the afternoon and night shifts, as union activists demanded. Many workers remembered the snowstorms that had blocked supply deliveries and forced management to cancel some shifts for some workers. Now, though, management only gave out bottles of water – hot room temperature water!

At a meeting of the Social and Economic Committee at the height of the heat wave, the foremen went manic and refused to stop production. Some union people walked out of the meeting.

Except for strenuous indoor activity, the labor law doesn’t set a temperature level above which it would be illegal to make people work. But bosses are supposed to provide ways to cool down. Union officials put out an alert about the serious and imminent danger of the heat, and contacted government inspectors.

Workers in the Press shop decided collectively to leave work two hours earlier. Many others on afternoon or night shift did not come to work at all. The bosses eventually had to be satisfied with barely meeting a third of their production target.

While the government was warning even healthy young people to go out as little as possible, not to move too much, and to stay well hydrated, the auto bosses’ desire for profit stayed red hot.