October 18 strike day. Philippe Martinez: “Why we are calling for the movement to be generalized”

The social conflict begins to spread. Started on September 20, the mobilization in the refineries gradually spread to other sectors, while government attacks redoubled. With other unions, the CGT is launching an interprofessional day of action on Tuesday 18 October.

The Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, challenges the CGT: « The blocking of the whole country is perfectly unacceptable », he assures. In addition, many professions complain that they can no longer work due to lack of gasoline. How do you respond to criticism?

The CGT has been asking for the opening of negotiations for several weeks on the question of wages and, until now, neither the management of Total nor the government has seen fit to respond. It was not until a conflict, the impact of which the executive also minimized at the start, explaining that there was no supply problem, that he woke up. The government and the management of Total reverse roles: they are the ones responsible for the situation.

This conflict is symbolic in view of the group’s financial situation: faced with a CEO who has increased by 52% in one year but who refuses to share the profits made, we need a government that shows firmness politics, not that he sends unions and management back to back…

Of course, we understand the anger of the emergency services and citizens in general, but we must not fall into the trap of division: low wages affect everyone in our country, hence the multiplication of strikes in many companies. Procedures must be put in place to allow the care and medico-social professions to work properly, but it is up to the government to organize them.

The management of Total made a new offer to the strikers on Thursday, with a salary increase of 6% in 2023, as well as a bonus equivalent to one month’s salary. Enough, do you think?

It is up to the employees to decide, but what is certain is that this proposal does not correspond to the demand of the unions at Total. The CGT demands a 10% increase. A wage negotiation does not take place in this way: in principle, management and unions sign an agreement to end the dispute, which provides for progress and, then, the employees are asked if it suits them.

But a direction which dialogues all alone and transmits its proposals by means of press release, that has nothing to do with democracy. What a waste of time and energy for employees and citizens struggling to finally open negotiations!

Based on the agreement signed at ExxonMobil by the company’s majority unions, the government denounces a minority strike …

I remind you that the agreement signed at ExxonMobil obviously does not correspond to the expectations of the employees, since the latter are on strike! Furthermore, I do not think that the executive is in the best position to give lessons in democracy: three-quarters of the population are opposed to raising the retirement age, which does not prevent it from maintaining his reform plan. The government invokes majority rule when it suits it.

We are witnessing a campaign of denigration of the strikers in recent days. How do you analyze it?

It is a classic of mobilizations: to pit employees against each other, the strikers are passed off as privileged. Railway workers know this by heart. I re-read the salary scale for the chemical sector: it shows that, in this sector, two salary levels start below the Smic and six coefficients below 2,000 euros.

In addition, the reality of the work must be taken into account: night shifts, on-call duty at weekends, exposure to dangerous products, etc. The remuneration figures put forward by some, of 5,000 euros gross per month for refinery operators, are totally fanciful. However, if Total employees are paid a little better than others, the CGT welcomes it: we are calling for an increase in all wages, not a race to the bottom!

You are calling for a one-day strike in all companies, public and private, next week. Why ?

During the day of September 29, we warned that there would be suites. Here we are. The question of the strike must be debated in all companies. We are already calling to generalize the movement started at Total, even if we know the difficulty of striking for many employees, subscribers to low wages. The social anger expressed in the country is legitimate. The slogans of the day next week will respond to this: they will logically revolve around wages and the sharing of wealth.

The problem of the taxation of profits is more than ever posed, it appears in a more significant way at Total, but it is not the only example. I want to remind you here of the importance of national mobilizations: not everything can be settled at company level. The question of the rise in the Smic, for example, must be decided on the scale of the country.

Similarly, we are calling for the return of the sliding scale of salaries, that is to say the indexation of salaries to inflation, so that salaries follow the rise in prices.

How do you judge the government’s decision to requisition strikers?

Nicolas Sarkozy did the same during the refinery strikes of 2010, against the background of pension reform. We say that this measure violates international law. In 2010, the International Labor Organization (ILO), an offshoot of the UN, had also criticized France for this, considering that it was an attack on the right to strike. Of course, it does not have the legal means to condemn France, since it can only make recommendations. But it has weight.

The use by the current government of the weapon of requisitions worries us all the more as it is part of a more global movement, in Europe, to restrict the right to strike. We are fighting against this questioning.


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