France: In Political Sciences of Paris, a lecture hall completely filled

Meeting against layoffs and for the convergence of the struggles


By Guillaume Loïc, CCR4 in the NPA | Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On Thursday evening, it was difficult to recognise the Political Sciences building, this “venerable institution,” that trains the future managerial staff of the bourgeoisie. The Boutmy Amphitheater, that bears the name of the “man against the Commune” and founder of the Institute of Political Studies of Paris, is more accustomed to welcoming heads of state and big bosses. On Thursday, at 7 p.m., this was very different. On the platform of the main lecture hall of the great Parisian school, representatives of the main current struggles, Sanofi, Air France, Virgin, Presstalis, PSA, Renault, Goodyear and Licenci’elles [1], soon came to appear in succession.

500 people, full of enthusiasm

In front of them, 500 people: many male and female workers from the different union groups in delegations, especially from the CGT and from Sud; militants, identified with the colors of the Front of the Left and the NPA, both supporting this meeting; students from Political Sciences, but also from other Parisian schools, asked by the unionists from the different factories in struggle, that stood out, like Laurence, from Sud-Chimie Toulouse, a female wage-earner from Sanofi, about how tomorrow, when they are in the labor market, they will also have to fight; students, especially, in solidarity with these struggles, as testified to by the abundant applause at the end of each speech, the chants in the hall and the boxes, passing from one row to another, and being filled with money destined for increasing the strike fund of the workers at PSA Aulnay, that have been suffering a lock-out by the bosses since Friday, January 18.

The appetite of the bosses and the resistance of the workers

All the union representatives emphasized on the platform how their struggles were in no way an isolated case. Everywhere, it is the appetite of the bosses that is being revealed, in factories that are frequently amassing profits, as Léon, from Sud Aérien, or David, for the CGT Air France, stressed. However, in each case, the male and female workers are the adjustable variable. Everywhere it is the same figures that are being chipped away at: more than 11,000 layoffs at PSA, as Philippe, from the CGT Aulnay, said; more than 8,000 at Renault, as the comrades from the technical centers of Guyancourt or Lardy have charged: so many families condemned, four times more induced jobs [2] that are threatened.

But, facing the logic of the capitalist steamroller, the workers are very determined not to give in. At every opportunity, the comrades on the platform emphasized the initiatives in which the wage-earners from the different groups that are the target of the attacks, participated. At Virgin, several meetings took place. At Presstalis, workers’ action against the downsizing plan is becoming steadier, causing the distribution of the press to be suspended. In the automotive industry, the comrades from PSA told how their fight has developed since 2011 against the low blows by President Varin, who has just decided on a lock-out at Aulnay, for fear that the strike begun ten days ago, in opposition to the announced shutdown of the Seine-Saint-Denis workplace, would spread.

The link between the fights of 2008-2010 and the current struggles: No to closures and layoffs!

To establish the relationship between the current struggles and those of the wave of struggles against the layoffs of 2008-2010, Manu Georget, from the CGT Philips-Dreux, went up to the platform. This was an opportunity to recall how the issue of keeping jobs is essential for workers, even more so in the regions affected by unemployment and the closures of firms.

The issue, as especially the workers from Virgin or from Sanofi emphasized, is not to defend compensations in exchange for the closure of workplaces, nor even a supposed national industry against outsourcing. What workers have as most valuable to defend, is employment. From this stems the possibility of fighting, collectively, against the low blows of the employers and the policies of a government that everyone who spoke did not cease to criticize, emphasizing that there was nothing to expect from Hollande, nor from any of his Ministers.

As far as “French industry” is concerned, in the case of Philips Dreux, the production of television sets was moved to Hungary, where the workers work for little more than 400 euros per month. But, as Manu emphasized, followed by applause, “the Hungarian worker is my class brother, while the French boss that exploits us here, is the same one that invades and loots the poorest countries, as can be seen currently with the imperialist intervention in Mali.” It was not an accident that the meeting ended with the “Internationale” sung by everyone in the hall; this has not happened for several years in a meeting of workers and students.

Unification and coordination of the struggles, a necessity ...

Hence, the issue of the unification of the struggles arises. Already, in the automotive sector, the workers of Aulnay joined with those of Flins, who were protesting on Wednesday against Carlos Ghosn’s plans for downsizing, But breaking the isolation, expanding the resistance as much as possible, is an essential matter. Undoubtedly, this is what cruelly failed in 2008-2010, despite some attempts at unification, and although there was no lack of militancy. It is sufficient to think about the struggle at Molex or at Conti, for instance.

Because of this, all the students and militants answered “Present!” when the different speakers that followed each other on the platform called for mobilization on Tuesday, January 29, first, in front of the Ministry of Labor, then to the National Assembly, organized by workers from many factories, who will be there to say “No layoffs!”

… even more so, after the announcement from the Goodyear management!

When they have just announced the closure of the Amiens Goodyear workplace, casting a bit more of a shadow over the social situation, the issue of coordinating the current struggles and the resistance against the low blows of the bosses and the government (because in the public sector also, the situation is far from flourishing) is, more than ever, on the agenda.

For their part, as Mickaël Wamen, for the CGT of the Amiens tire production workplace, emphasized, today there exists a debate that is going across all the sectors in struggle: it is about the issue of the slogans to raise against the threats of layoffs and closure. It is not, in any case, about a previous unity of the enterprises that are fighting, but that this debate, especially among the women and men that clearly reject the prospect of layoffs and emphasize keeping jobs, could again raise the morale and give perspectives to tens of workplaces where the bosses want to move forward with flexibilization, decreased job security, “voluntary” retirements or layoffs, as if this were fate. It would also be a way to show, in deeds, how the world of work, as a hegemonic subject, is capable of giving perspectives to all those women and men who do not even have a CDI (a permanent contract) and are thrown out like pieces of Kleenex, when their contract or their position ends; but also of offering prospects to those thousands of young people from all the suburbs of France, like the women and men from Amiens-Nord last summer, who made their voice heard, against this system based on exploitation, oppression, and institutionalized racism, but are unable to carry out their fight to the end, because of the absence of a class alternative.

Then yes, the announcement of the closure of the Amiens workplace by Goodyear, where more than 1,200 workers work and have, for almost six years, carried out a struggle of resistance and resolute preparation against the maneuvers of their management, could become a “real social bomb” for the government, as today’s press is calling it. This is the best that could be hoped for.

The date is January 29, in front of the Ministry of Labor!

If the students have to play a role in this movement, the enterprises in struggle have a very special responsibility for setting up the challenge, at a time when the Confederations prefer to share the same table for negotiating the counter-reforms with the employers, up to and including signing the worst setbacks, like the “job security” agreements, with Medef (a confederation of bosses).

“Basically, to the left”: The meeting this Thursday was happening there. From below, from the left, this is how the counteroffensive is going to be built: in a united front, with different union and political abbreviations, workers’ and students’ initials, shoulder to shoulder. We must now show that the initiative of January 24 can be perpetuated and extended, and that convergence and coordination can really emerge.

The date is Tuesday, at 2 p.m., in front of the Ministry of Labor, to give continuity to the success of the first meeting on Thursday!

January 25, 2013

[1] There was no time for the letter carrier comrades from 92 and 78, the representatives of the personnel of the ENS, Paris, the undocumented immigrants from Coordination 75, the comrades from the CGT-EDF, to speak.

[2] A type of precarious work to compensate for increases in demand.

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