French Aeronautics Unions Demand a Halt to All Non-Essential Production

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Photo by La Dépêche du Midi

Cases of COVID-19 are rising rapidly in France, doubling every four days. At this writing, some 2,314 people have already died from the virus, with 319 deaths occurring in just the preceding 24 hours. President Emmanuel Macron has declared “war” on the outbreak, using it as justification to implement repressive measures to keep people in their homes and stop the spread of the virus. At the same time, although all non-essential businesses and operations have been ordered to close, some companies are calling people back to work to protect their profits. For example, European aeronautics company Airbus has ordered some of its full-time and subcontracted workers back to factories in order to manufacture airplane equipment, even as France struggles to provide hospitals with enough ventilators to treat those infected with the virus. But workers are not going to put themselves in danger without a fight. 

The following is a statement put out by French aeronautics unions to protest Airbus’ decision to put workers at risk in the middle of a pandemic. The signatories include UNSA-Aérien DERICHBOURG, CGT TOFER, CGT Airbus avions, CGT Airbus Defense & Space, CGT Latécoère, CGT Safran Power Unit, CGT Collins, CGT Ratier-Figeac, CGT Figeac-Aéro, CGT Safran Nacelles, CGT Mécachrome, CGT Atelier Haute Garonne, CGT SOGETI, CGT Ventana, CGT Dassault-Argenteuil, Safran Electrical Power, SES, Safran Villemur, CGT OTIS, CGT Liebherr Aerospace, CGT Technal, and CGT ONERA.  

We are at war. The government has just passed ordinances that tighten confinement and nullify labor rights. Meanwhile, corporate executives demand that we return to work. On the one hand, fines of thousands of euros are being imposed to keep people in their homes, while on the other hand the bosses demand that we keep the factories running. This is recklessness. The only sure way to protect ourselves during this pandemic is CONFINEMENT!

The letter from Airbus on March 18 was not “fake news.” Airbus management stipulated that work would resume on March 23. Its subcontracting companies are also demanding the resumption of work by its employees, insisting that the requirements of their Airbus customers must be met.

The management of one subcontracting company went so far as to order all employees to return to work, saying that “people will have to choose whether they want to die of hunger or the virus.”

To sum up: when all is well, you cannot share in the wealth; when all is bad, you must still produce the wealth. This crisis reveals a system that is running out of steam, one which demands a profound transformation.

In concrete terms, for the moment, only a small number of employees are returning to work under very restrictive measures that do not allow them to perform their usual tasks. Our work itself has been downgraded. Moreover, returning is not always voluntary, and some companies are forcing employees to return to production sites under the guise that DIRECCTE1 is not honoring requests for partial unemployment.

Airbus offers masks, gloves, and coveralls to protect employees on site at the very time that medical services are in desperate need of equipment for caregivers and patients. All of these masks must be immediately given to healthcare personnel.

We are being made to take risks to produce things that are non-essential in the middle of a health crisis. In response, we say:

– Our health must come before profits.

– In the aeronautics sector, we must consider reorienting production towards the manufacture of essential medical equipment such as ventilators, as several sectors have discussed in other regions.

The situation is likely to change very quickly. Reopening companies is difficult, and some are postponing this for a few days. CGT and UNSA-Aérien unions in the aeronautics sector demand 100% payment of wages during the confinement period for all employees who cannot work from home, are taking care of children, or suffering from long-term illnesses. The stock dividends this industry generates make this possible!

Translated by Scott Cooper

Notes   [ + ]

1. Translator’s note: DIRECCTE is France’s Regional Office for Competition, Labor, and Employment, representing the national ministries of Labor, Economy, and Industry in 22 offices throughout the country.

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Left Voice

Left Voice

Militant journalism, revolutionary politics.