Strike of traders in France as wage cuts and layoffs multiplyPar Will Morrow
July 28, 2020
Thousands of workers at Castorama, a DIY and home improvement tool and supply chain in France, have been on work stoppages since last week to oppose the company’s refusal to pay thousands of dollars. euros in premiums for the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers in around two-thirds of France’s 100 stores have participated in work stoppages or protest actions throughout the past week. The number of employees involved has not been reported, but the company itself admits that at least 20 percent of the employees participated. Castorama employs 11,000 people in France. It is 100% owned by the British group Kingfisher, which also operates stores in Poland and Russia.
The company is using the agreement it signed with unions last year to reduce bonuses paid to employees. Previously, the bonus was capped based on a worker’s salary over a year, but Castorama is applying it on the basis of the last quarter, in which it was partly closed due to the pandemic. According to the unions, this equates to a reduction from € 3,600 to € 900 for an employee earning just above the minimum wage at € 1,500 gross per month.
The claim by the French Democratic Federation of Labor (CFDT) and the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) that they are shocked that Castorama is implementing the most recent agreement they signed, rather than the meaning “as intended Is absurd. Workers are used to these clauses being routinely inserted into agreements behind their backs by unions and companies in behind-the-scenes negotiations, allowing them to covertly cut workers’ wages and benefits.
The fact that the company was able to continue operating in all but one of the stores despite massive staff opposition to its wage cuts shows that workers have little confidence in the unions, which are nothing more than employer partners. -business unions. . The union has largely focused on holding demoralizing stunts, posting photos of workers holding signs in stores that remain open.
Castorama slashes profits amid record sales since the lockdown ended. He is using the threat of mass unemployment as a ram to slash wages as layoffs and closures spill over into the retail sector.
Dozens of retailers have been placed in compulsory liquidation. Fashion retailer Camaïeu is in liquidation and could close, threatening 3,900 jobs. Potential buyers said they would keep at most two-thirds of the jobs.
Workers at the Alinéa home furniture store in Le Mans staged a strike on Saturday against the planned closure of the store. The company is in liquidation and potential buyers expected to take control of the company on August 31 plan to remain open in no more than 9 of the 28 stores. None of the workers who went on strike were from a union, and the action included all of the retailer’s cashiers, so customers could walk into the store without buying anything.
The main concern of the unions is to prevent an entire working class movement in France and across Europe against the wave of layoffs and austerity being pursued by the European ruling class. In France, the Macron administration has installed a new government headed by Prime Minister Jean Castex with the mission of accelerating the austerity program that it has been pursuing since taking office in 2017.
Castex has ruled out any return to a lockdown, regardless of the spread of the virus which has already killed more than 30,000 people in France. With daily cases reaching more than 1,100 in France last week, against a few dozen shortly after the deconfinement of May 11, it is clear that there is a resurgence of the virus. Castex said on Saturday that a lockdown “stops the spread of the virus, of course, but from an economic and social perspective it is a disaster.”
In other words, the potential death of tens of hundreds of thousands of people cannot stand in the way of the profit of French companies.
The Macron government is preparing a 100 billion euro economic stimulus package to be announced next month that will channel more wealth into the bank accounts and stock portfolios of the super-rich. Drastic cuts to pensions, unemployment and other social programs are being prepared to fund corporate donations. All the while, Castex continually meets with the unions to organize this assault and try to suppress broad opposition to this policy in the working class.
On July 17, the government announced that it was postponing negotiations on its pension reforms with unions until next year and that it would delay imposing reductions in unemployment benefits until next year as well.
It has nothing to do with a change in policy. Castex and Macron have repeatedly stated that they are determined to impose unpopular cuts in the pension system, including the introduction of a points-based pension entitlement that can be used to continually reduce entitlements in accordance with budgetary requirements.
Castex said the postponement of the reforms was necessary because they were particularly “divisive”. Pension reforms sparked massive strikes by railway workers and other public sector workers late last year. The government is biding its time until it has imposed more corporate bailouts, and potentially changing the shape of its budget cuts.
The unions hail the Castex government, fraudulently claiming it is turning away from austerity, to hide from workers the attacks Macron and the unions are plotting.
Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT, responded to Castex’s July 17 announcement by tweeting that “the CFDT is leaving this meeting [with the government] with the conviction that there is real sincerity on the part of the Prime Minister in his wishes for social dialogue.
Philippe Martinez, the boss of the CGT, declared on France Inter on July 18 that Castex was “direct, and it’s good when we have things to say to each other so as not to beat around the bush. … [Castex] He knows unions well and has a history that speaks in his favor. ”
Castex’s “past” includes overseeing the restructuring of the public health system as an advisor to the right-wing Sarkozy government from 2005 to 2007. He introduced the “share-based pricing” model, providing funding to based hospitals. the number of operations performed, which had a devastating impact on the healthcare system. However, he is known to have fostered the continuation of these pro-business policies in close collaboration with the unions, which is the central demand of the union bureaucracy.