The following article was first published as the editorial of workplace bulletins distributed by members of Convergences Révolutionnaires, the monthly journal of the L’Etincelle (The Spark) faction active in France.

July 7, 2014

The “social conference” that starts today will certainly not upstage the Avignon art festival. The actors of this farce are not intermittent workers in show business. No, they are the “social partners”, bosses, government and unions called in again this year to negotiate further social decline that Hollande and Valls will impose on the workers.

The government kowtowing to the bosses

Bosses’ representatives got the ball rolling at the end of June, when they demanded the government goes back on setting up a way to track hardness of work as a way to allow some categories of employees to retire early, as well as on restricting part-time work to a minimum of 24 hours weekly. Pierre Gattaz, the president of the bosses’ union Medef, hinted about boycotting the social conference if these demands were not met.

That was enough to get Valls to join the show and… give in to the bosses’ demands. Work arduousness will not be taken into account in some industries such as construction. The reform of part-time work, for which there already were exemptions when hiring students and temp workers, was already a good deal for the bosses. Always ready to help, Valls proposed to make it easier to have contracts of less than 24 hours, with the agreement of the employee… who generally doesn’t have much choice between working less hours and being unemployed.

But the highlight of the show was when Valls, playing the role of the servant, reminded us of the 41 billion euros gift to the bosses and announced a revision of labor laws and new aids to corporations. And concluded: “such commitments have never been made before at this level”!

Union leaders: complaints and “partial” boycott

The union leaders are crying: no one asked for their opinion! They do not condemn the farce that is the “social dialogue”, which only purpose is to make workers swallow anti-worker policies by making some or all unions endorse them. No, what the unions condemn is the “lack” of social dialogue! Since the Medef had threatened a boycott, the CGT and FO felt they had to boycott, at least partially, the conference. Other union leaders decided not to miss a single day of the dialogue. But on the first day of the conference Thierry Lepaon, CGT’s general secretary, went to the “behind closed doors” meeting called in by Hollande.

Despite a little sulking, the union apparatus are mostly trying to get themselves recognized by the government and the bosses as responsible partners. They are definitely not preparing a massive mobilization of workers.

Workers have to take the stage!

The masks have come off a while ago now. The Minister of Labor, Michel Sapin expressed it in his own way when he said that “our friend is the financial world: the good one” – a big change from when Hollande, during his presidential campaign, had pretended to be the “enemy” of finance. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) made no mistake when it encouraged Hollande to continue his austerity and pro-capitalist policies. The IMF, though, warned that these measures might provoke some protests, which only a “more cooperative social dialogue” might be able to prevent.

Thus, many fear the workers’ reaction, and they are right. The railway workers strike, the fight of the intermittent workers in show business and the strike at the SNCM ferry company show that workers are not happy just to sit and watch this puppet theatre.

Workers will be able to stop the bosses’ and the government’s attacks only on their own ground, in the street and on strikes, and by joining their fights together. They have nothing to gain from summit negotiations, where the bourgeoisie is always pulling the strings.