AT THE CALL of the trade unions, more than 220 demonstrations were organised across France on Friday, October 13, to say no to austerity policies and yes to increasing wages.
Trade union federation Force Ouvriere warned on Monday: ‘ “Controlling spending to invest in the future” is the title of the finance bill (PLF) for 2024 presented by the government on September 27.
‘It is the choice of an axis of reinforced economies. The government is proposing to reduce public spending by 16 billion euros (or even 17 if possible), including 5.2 billion euros in reduced spending for the State.
‘The objective is therefore to forcefully reduce the public deficit to 2.7% of GDP in 2027, to be in line with the European Stability Pact, which should re-enter next year.
‘In 2024, the government intends to reduce the public deficit to 4.4%, compared to 4.9% this year. From 5.3% to 4.6% regarding the state deficit.
‘To meet the 2027 objective, the government intends to adopt “a new method, public expenditure reviews, which will be repeated each year”. The State is targeting savings of six billion euros in 2025 and six more in 2026.
‘Another technique for reducing spending is the “implementation of structural reforms”. And to cite the reform of the RSA (social security system), the creation of France Travail, the reform of vocational high schools… after other reforms, including those on pensions and unemployment insurance.’
Commenting on last Friday’s mass mobilisation, the CGT trade union federation said: ‘In France and Europe, employers and governments are seeking to impose austerity policies.
‘This choice is a dead end.
‘It deteriorates services and public goods and destroys our industries for the benefit of finance which captures the wealth created by work.
‘The austerity pact impacts the daily lives of workers in France and throughout Europe.
‘It is in this context that the (prime minister Elisabeth) Borne government imposed the increase in the retirement age.
‘Building on the historic mobilisation for pensions, determined and united, the inter-union federation proposed a new day of offensive action to win new rights for workers.’
There were 223 demonstrations throughout France at the call of the inter-union.
The CGT continued: ‘Several sectors of activity were on strike, notably in transport, hospitals, at the Louvre museum, and even at Accenture. The employees of this consulting firm, which proposed a 0% increase in salaries during the NAO, are mobilised at the call of the inter-union – a mobilisation and inter-union movement that goes beyond French borders.
Twenty unions from 12 countries responded to the CSE’s (Committee Social and Economic which represents eight French unions) call, and nearly a thousand European trade unionists from all over the continent converged on Paris and joined Friday’s day of action to say no to austerity and to demand higher wages, decent pensions and gender equality.
It was one of many trade union mobilisations across Europe as part of the European Trade Union Confederation’s campaign to end austerity and get a fair deal for workers, including wage increases to restore people’s purchasing power.
Addressing the Paris crowd, ETUC General Secretary Esther Lynch said: ‘Workers are here in large numbers today to say no to austerity 2.0 and yes to fair wages, decent pensions and gender equality.
‘European leaders must learn from the lessons of the past. Painful experience has already taught us that austerity means fewer jobs, lower wages and underfunded public services.
‘People simply cannot endure another round of restrictions. We were coming out of a period of growth the last time austerity was imposed but that is not the case this time – many people have seen their savings wiped out by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.
‘Austerity also means that countries will not be able to make the investments necessary for the transition to a green economy. Austerity will be as bad for the planet as it is for people.
‘And the worst part is that these plans to restore austerity come at a time when corporate profits and shareholder dividends have reached record levels, rising up to 13 times faster than wages.
‘Politicians cannot demand that the poorest empty their pockets once again while the richest pop the champagne corks.
‘The European Union needs new fiscal rules that put the well-being of citizens and the future of the planet above arbitrary targets based on 1980s ideology.’
During the press conference, before the Paris demonstration set off, Sophie Binet, general secretary of the CGT, advised the government to change consulting firms.
She said: ‘Just ask Chat GPT: what is causing inflation? It answers: these are the profits. The problem is first and foremost the price/profit loop.
‘In the food industry, for example, profits are exploding with 50% margins and price increases of more than 20% in two years.’
The CGT noted: ‘Trade union organisations are unanimously demanding wage increases.
‘The inter-union has obtained the opening of a social conference and demands the opening of negotiations on wages in companies and branches.’
In a press release, published last Friday October 13 at the end of the afternoon, the CGT declared that the day of mobilisation constituted: ‘An important point of support for engaging the Social Conference which must lead to the implementation of measures for better remuneration for work, equal pay and strengthening funding for our social protection system!
‘Inflation particularly and violently impacts the poorest households. Its reduction will not be possible without the implementation of a proactive policy on this subject.
‘Thus, the CGT will bring, during this social conference, its proposals to increase salaries and the minimum wage, make professional and salary equality between women and men real through restrictive measures, and demand systematic control of public aid paid to businesses.
‘It is on the strength of today’s united inter-professional mobilisation that the CGT calls on all workers and retirees to continue mobilisations in companies and territories, to challenge employers – to demand immediate opening of salary negotiations – and public authorities, for civil servants and retirees.
‘The success of this national inter-professional day of mobilisations and strikes must now be followed up.
‘It constitutes an important point of support for initiating the social conference which must lead to the implementation of measures for better remuneration for work, equal pay and the strengthening of financing for our social protection system!
‘Monday October 16, during the social conference, the CGT will make numerous proposals including:
- The indexation of wages to prices;
- The conditionality of public aid to businesses;
- Supervision and improvement of the rights of part-time employees, 80% of whom are women;
• Sanctions against companies that do not apply equal pay for women and men and request the application of the European directive on pay transparency.’