The board of directors of the Ile-de-France bus network met on Monday, chaired by the president of Ile-de-France, the former minister of education and finance, Valérie Pécresse. In a press release, the board of directors asked “the State to intervene in the most appropriate conditions to ensure the unblocking of bus depots and thus allow the operation of the minimum service legitimately expected by users”.
At the same time, the former president of the Post Office and the Parisian rail network, Jean-Paul Bailly, would lead “a mission of reconciling points of view” between the strikers and the management of Transdev.
Pécresse’s appeal to the police to crush the pickets is a frontal attack on the right to strike. This ties in with Transdev’s provocative and deceptive statements that the strike created an “urban guerrilla climate” in the Paris region. The objective is to suppress the legitimate demands of the workers in the face of the social attacks of which they are victims and to prepare the ground for a police aggression against the strikers.
The state fears an eruption of the class struggle against attacks on workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as workers’ anger mounts in the transportation sector. German railway workers have been on strike for weeks this summer and private bus drivers have called a strike in the UK. Transport strikes broke out in Lyon and Chambéry in France, while a strike by garbage collectors in the Aix-Marseille region began on September 30 against an increase in working hours.
At Transdev, employees oppose the restructuring of working conditions, resulting from a regressive agreement negotiated with the main unions in the company. It provides for longer driving hours, a wage freeze and a loss of paid vacation days.The opening of the public transport network to private competition will continue over the next two decades in France. It started this year with the Optile bus networks in Île-de-France. It will continue with Parisian metropolitan buses (2025), national commuter trains (2023 to 2033), trams (2030), and finally subways and regional trains (2040).
Patricia, a striker, explained to France-Bleu that the agreement is “totally disadvantageous for the staff. Previously, we were paid 39 hours and had 22 days of paid vacation. Now we are at 37 hours and they have taken away 11 days of RTT. »Holiday vouchers are reduced« from € 750 per year to € 250 ».
Freddy, a 15-year-old bus driver, described an “increase in working time at the wheel”, while the time allocated to “taking charge of the shift” – notably for carrying out vehicle checks – has been reduced. from 20 minutes to 10. He added, “As soon as you start your shift, you’re under pressure. … Before, when I had a seven hour shift, I worked two hours more, which meant two hours of paid overtime. Now, with 42, 43, 45 hour weeks, I no longer want to work. Everything has been done to freeze our salaries.
New bus depots have recently joined the strike, as in Rambouillet. While some opt for rotating strikes (as in Nemours and Rambouillet), many maintain a continuous strike (Chelles, Marne-la-Vallée, Saint-Gratien, Vulaines-sur-Seine, Vaux-le-Pénil).
The struggle of Transdev workers cannot be left in the hands of the unions. They were forced to go on strike in the Transdev depots, even though they had negotiated the agreement with the management which provides for increases in working hours.
Now the unions are demoralizing workers by isolating them, deposit by deposit, in order to weaken the movement. Jamel Abdelmoumni, central delegate of Transdev for Sud-Rail in Ile-de-France, declared: “The management’s strategy is first of all to try to weaken the movement, to stifle it; then, to conclude agreements on a case-by-case basis in order to put the most precarious workers back to work.But this management strategy, well described by the Sud-Rail union, is implemented by the union leaders themselves.
At Sénart, for example, an agreement was signed by two out of three unions. On Monday, October 11, a negotiation meeting for the Vaux-le-Pénil depot was held at the administrative building of the City in Melun. Tuesday, October 12, a meeting was held in Marne-la-Vallée, still in the presence of officials from the Ministry of Labor. Two meetings were held in Vulaines-sur-Seine, one on October 12, the other on October 14, this time without a mediator from the Ministry of Labor. In the other depots of Fontainebleau, Melun and Marne le Vallée, the unions are continuing negotiations.
While the Transdev strike began in early September, the unions isolated workers from other transport strikes in Lyon and Chambéry, from striking garbage collectors in Aix-Marseille, and above all from their international counterparts. In the UK, truck drivers went on strike for a day in August to protest longer working hours, low wages, intolerable conditions and the consequences of a 100,000 driver crisis . In anticipation of the strike, the British Army was placed on high alert.
To oppose the straitjacket of the union apparatuses on strike and to mobilize workers more widely against the danger of police repression, workers should establish their own independent grassroots committees in depots and other struggling workplaces. The Transdev strikers have strong support in France and internationally. But to unify and mobilize this support, the workers cannot leave the initiative in the hands of the trade union apparatuses.
The “yellow vests” movement, which has organized itself on social networks, as well as the coronavirus pandemic itself, have discredited the union apparatuses, which have collaborated in the reopening of workplaces and schools in conditions dangerous. The ruling class itself is no longer sure of the ability of the unions to suppress the class struggle. That is why its representatives are turning to the police and the army.
It is a warning that capitalism is incompatible with the most basic struggle of workers to defend their social and democratic rights. It is essential to organize workers independently of unions, to defend their social and democratic rights and to impose a scientific strategy to stop the pandemic and eradicate the coronavirus. It means forging the unity of the international working class in the struggle for socialism.