Friday, December 9, 2011

External article: "How One Can Still Put Forward Demands When No Demands Can Be Satisfied" (J. Neton and P. Åström at Communisation)

After a short wave at the beginning of the century, instances of proletarians taking their bosses hostage or threatening to blow up their factories reappeared in 2009, and have since become something of a trend. We can now count as many as twenty cases since the beginning of 2010.

What took place at Siemens is quite representative of the context in which such struggles emerge. In September 2009, the management of this metallurgical engineering company announced 470 redundancies at the Montbrisson site and the outright closure of the Saint-Chamond site. In keeping with an agreement signed on the 12th of February the trade-unions prepared a counter-proposal to save jobs, but the negotiations came to nothing. “The management no longer listens” one employee noted. The workers then organised demonstrations, blocked the motorways, and went on strike at the Montbrisson site, but these efforts were fruitless. Then on Monday the 1st of March 2010, the employees at the site of Saint-Chamond took two of the group’s executives hostage in order to force the resumption of negotiations. The employees announced the actions were “mandated by all of the staff”, in response to “the blockage of all negotiations”. Reached by telephone the executives taken hostage described their situation in the following manner : “[The employees] have let us know that we are going to be held for as long as there has not been the progress in the negotiations that they wish to see, especially over the increase in compensation beyond the legal minimum for those who have been discharged.” After being locked up for one night they were released and the following day an agreement with management was reached. It confirmed the closure of one of the sites, reduced the number of jobs that will be cut and accepted an increase in compensation from 35,000 to 45,000 euros.

Cases of threats to blow up the factory have also been repeated in 2010, following the example of New Fabris the year before, a struggle which enabled the employees to receive a compensation over the legal minimum of 12 000 euros. This method was used in 2010 at Sodimatex, an automotive equipment manufacturer, and the same month also at the Brodard Graphique printing house and at Poly Implant Prothèse, a manufacturer of breast implants, where on the 12 of April 2010 the employees threatened to set the premises on fire. Eric Mariaccia, a representative of the CFDT union, stated the following : “We have made Molotov cocktails and placed highly flammable products at the site’s entrance.” The workers also spilled several thousand prosthesis in front of the site and set fire to tyres.

Even-though the usage of such methods seems unthinkable in other western countries, in France they are considered acceptable by a large proportion of the population.

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