French Unions Call Equal Pay Strike On March 8

Hospital workers demonstrate against the French government’s attack on public health

FRENCH trade unions have called on workers to mobilise and strike on March 8th to demand equal pay for women and men.

The CGT trade union federation said last week: ‘Monday, March 1st, all companies must have published their professional equality index.
‘It should be remembered that the initial objective of this index publication was to highlight the pay gaps between women and men.
‘But it is clear that these announcements are only for effect. In fact, the index turns out to be a formidable tool for making discrimination invisible,’ warned the CGT.

  • In 2020, 96% of companies with more than 1,000 employees scored more than 75/100 on the index and therefore have no obligation to correct inequalities.
  • However, the wage differentials are still high: 26% on average in France.

The difference between the index result and the reality of wage and career inequalities is glaring! This is the result of subterfuge included in the index.
The CGT and all the trade unions have been raising the issue since the creation of the index in 2018. They are demanding:

  • No transparency! The equal pay index is an employer self-assessment that no one can verify!

‘It is essential that the staff representatives and the labour inspectorate have the details of the calculation and the details of the pay gaps and inequalities in salaries in order to be able to check the index and especially to work on corrective measures.

  • Invisibility of wage inequalities! By the “tolerance threshold” of 5% for the calculation of pay gaps in the 1st indicator: If there is a 10% gap between women and men, only 5% is retained!

‘By the rating scale: 1% pay gap = 1 point less on the index.
‘Concretely, this means 10% of pay gap between women and men allows a score of 95/100!

  • Not taking into account the amount of increases! Indicators 2 and 4 only compare the number of women and men increased. It is therefore very easy to increase women cosmetically and to have all your points on the index.

‘Worse: the index here is below what the labour code provides, which requires employers to allow employees returning from maternity leave the same amount of increase as other employees in their category!
‘Most of the structural factors of the differences between women and men are eliminated: part-time work (80% occupied by women), unequal career development and the devaluation of predominantly female occupations are not taken into account.
‘To avoid the penalty, companies have three or four years to reach 75/100. With such an index, we can be sure that in 2022, they will all have exceeded this threshold, without the situation of women having improved … with wage gaps still hidden.
‘This index is a provocation for women. The good news is that the subterfuge is so crude that it would be very easy to correct it.
‘The CGT reiterates its demand for an in-depth modification of the index.
‘The CGT demands the opening of immediate negotiations on this point.
‘Together with the feminist movement, the CGT calls on employees to mobilise on March 8th and to strike, to demand equal pay.’
Meanwhile, the French government, in a plan concocted by the Ministry of Justice, wants to ‘modify’ by ordinance the wage guarantee scheme (AGS). This will downgrade it to the detriment of employees and to the benefit of agents and creditors, the CGT union federation warned on Monday.
The text of this plan, stressed the CGT, is ‘a transposition of a European directive on “restructuring and insolvency” dated June 20, 2019, and modifies the order of privileged creditors.’
Created in 1973 in the light of the first oil shock, by the forerunner of Medef (the largest employers’ federation in France) the role of the AGS is to replace the liquidated company when the latter does not have the necessary funds to pay salaries.
The AGS website explains: ‘The main mission of the social purpose AGS is to accompany and support companies in collective proceedings by advancing the funds necessary for the payment of salary claims.
‘Whether it is advice, financial advances or follow-up, the AGS is a real social shock absorber that helps to preserve jobs and maintain the economic viability of the company, and more broadly to support the rebound of French economic activity.’
In 2020, the AGS paid around 1.2 billion euros in salaries to nearly 100,000 employees
The AGS is financed by an employer’s contribution and the goods recovered from the liquidated companies. But the new order planned by the government weakens this funding model.
Currently, the advance on salaries granted by the AGS is reimbursed through the sale of the assets of the liquidated company (real estate assets, vehicles, means of production, etc.), according to the principle of ‘super privilege’ provided for by law.
This ‘superprivilege’ which allows the AGS to be reimbursed before other creditors, is now threatened.
According to experts, the demotion of the superprivilege could lead to a drop in revenue of around 320 million euros in 2021. This would dry up the AGS in a period when the number of liquidations is likely to explode.
The text of the order also provides for the withdrawal of real estate assets from amounts recoverable by the AGS – for the benefit of the banks.
Trade unions and employers’ organisations are opposed to this text. The employers’ organisations fear an increase in their contribution to compensate for the demotion of the superprivilege of the AGS, while the unions denounce a reform that will weaken employees in the context of economic crisis.
The CGT has been asking for several years that the AGS, run solely by employers, become a joint body.

  • French residents will be living under the 6pm-6am curfew for ‘another four to six weeks’ longer, President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday while on a visit to an education centre.

As the president visited a training centre in Stains, in the Seine-Saint-Denis département on the outskirts of Paris, a student asked if it would be possible to push back the curfew until 7pm ‘because it is hard’.
The President responded: ‘We will have to hold on for another few weeks,’ saying the current model could last four to six weeks more.
An 8pm curfew began in France on December 15th and was then brought forward to 6pm across the whole country on January 16th. There is currently no end-date for the measure.
Asked at a press conference about the timeframe for relaxing the restriction a government spokesman said: ‘It’s a moment where the vaccination will be developing. In four to six weeks, we will have vaccinated more French people, which will affect the evolution of the epidemic.’
The Elysée spokesman added: ‘The strategy is not changing. We are continuing to take the necessary measures, as always on a case-by-case basis.’
The government gives weekly assessments every Thursday, but recent press conferences have focused more on imposing extra rules rather than loosening the ones already in place.
Last Thursday, 20 départements were placed on ‘alert’ for extra measures and discussions are ongoing between local and national authorities on the shape of these new measures, with a three-week lockdown or weekend lockdowns among the ideas floated.
In the same press conference, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that almost all over 50s will have been offered a first dose of the vaccine by mid-May.  By the end of March, Castex said, ‘two thirds of people over 75 will have been vaccinated.’