The right to strike is consubstantial with any democracy and there can obviously be no question of calling it into question. But one can nevertheless wonder about the conditions of exercise of this right, so much it is true that, when it is used in an abusive way, it can be formidable for the durability of a company, and, in the case of the SNCF, have an impact on the economy as a whole. Let’s be clear: in a company, the strike is always indicative of a failure, because it is the ultimate expression of a malaise that has not been resolved through dialogue. But what happens when the exercise of this right becomes the expression of the refusal of an economic system? Is there not, in this case, a diversion of this “right to strike” which becomes a tool of political protest, and no longer the expression of a dispute between the employees and their employer? This then looks like an abuse of this right. Because our economic model results a choice of society validated by democratic elections and not by the ability to block some. Another vision of SNCF The SNCF is a big company, useful to the French and its economy, loved and respected, sometimes even envied. But it is in crisis because it did not want to adapt to the evolutions of the modes of transport. It is all the more annoying that this company has remarkable assets (employee involvement, technological excellence …) and that it could, if it was given the means, be a major player. This necessarily requires a revision of an obsolete status, a financial equation to review (how to anticipate the future with 40 billion euros of debt, and 3 billion euros of loss per year?), technological choices to rethink (the all-TGV), etc. That’s where the real issues and the real debates are. It is about developing the vision of a renewed SNCF, once again conquering, open to competition and engaging with innovations. These are all topics on which we would like to hear the proposals of the trade unions. Instead, there is a form of hostage taking of the country so that nothing moves, nothing changes and the orchestra continues to play while the “Titanic” is wrecked. With some in mind, like some banks at the time of the financial crisis, the famous “Too big to fail” – “Too big to fall” , or, in the case of SNCF, “Too sensitive to be abandoned”. In short, why change and make efforts when we are convinced that the whole of society will pay to fill the drifts, the deficits and the debt? Risk of wear Far from the concrete problems of the SNCF, some union actors clearly claim a political posture of opposition to the government and questioning of
opening to competition
on the pretext that competition, “it’s bad”. When some unions claim the “convergence of struggles”, one wonders what one is talking about. The struggles against what, against whom? Against “wild and faceless” capitalism? But when will we finally talk about the real problems of the SNCF? And that’s where the use of the right to strike sounds like a form of abuse. Abuse of a monopoly situation that makes the exercise of the strike detrimental to all, abuse of a “hostage” of the rest of society without remorse and without measuring the effects as the economy reboots, abuse in the misuse of the use of a right to blackmail before any political … The risk is that, in the face of these abuses, by politicizing it, the right to strike wears out. Allowing unions to continue anti-capitalist politics and blocking the country is to allow a fundamental right to be diverted, and thus to weaken that right. But this situation should also sound like a useful reminder. At a time when the government wants to involve unions more in corporate governance during the Pact Act, this shows that not all unions are motivated solely by the interests of employees and the company. It should also be remembered that in the German co-management model, so dear to some, the right to strike is seriously regulated to prevent these abuses. Finally, we can only regret the silence of the so-called “reformist” unions on the excesses of their colleagues. Before claiming new rights, it is time for French-style trade unionism to question its “raison d’être” and finally choose between economic and social pragmatism and political utopia.
Pierre Gattaz is president of Medef Pierre Gattaz President of Medef