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Proletarian issue 53 (April 2013)
Major defeat for French workers
Three of France’s five main labour unions have succumbed to the social-democratic blandishments of President Francois Hollande, accepting without a murmur the demolition of time-honoured job protections on his plea that this is the price that must be paid to make the country attractive to businesses. The president of the employers’ federation, Medef, was ecstatic about the deal Hollande managed to con the unions into, declaring that it “will change life for businesses in France ... This marks the advent of a culture of compromise after decades of a philosophy of social antagonism.”

The other two unions (the communist-led Confederation General de Travail and the Trotskyite Force Ouvriere) refused to sign the deal, but according to the New York Times it “was nonetheless binding because France’s three other main labour unions backed it”.

Formally abstaining from this monstrous sell-out will therefore have purely symbolic value, unless abstention is backed up by a readiness to break bourgeois law in defence of workers’ rights. (‘Unions back labour law revisions in France’, 11 January 2013)

Under the numerous changes, laid-off workers will see both a reduction in compensation payments ordered by the courts and a reduction in the grace period within which they can contest their redundancy. Bosses will be given a free hand to slash working hours “in times of economic distress”, transforming the distress of capital into the distress of labour.

At the same time, businesses are also to be bribed with a €20bn tax credit to subsidise their employment costs. Supposedly in exchange for this largesse, companies will pay a bit more tax on short-term contracts, accounting now for 80 percent of new hires. Whilst in theory this should dissuade employers from imposing so many short-term contracts, the overall effect will be to play permanent staff off against short-term hires whilst progressively reducing the terms and conditions of the better-off 20 percent ever closer to the abysmal conditions of their less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile, the still less fortunate reserve army of unemployed workers is used as an ever-present threat against all those still in work should they dare to resist the new terms.

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