Mouvement Communiste CPE leaflets for students and building workers

Assembly at Jussieu university

Two leaflets about the CPE employment law. The first from 27 March, by some students in Jussieu to the building workers directly employed by this university in Paris. The second one was distributed in a student General Assembly, a little after the end of the movement.

It is as workers that we are attacked and not as students!
For around two weeks, there has not been much expansion of the anti-CPE/CNE movement, principally driven by the students and high school kids. If it has not already run out of steam, it is stagnating. This morning, Jussieu was blockaded by less than 200 students and the general assemblies attract at most 1000 people – sometimes less – from the tens of thousands enrolled in the two faculties of Jussieu. Of all those who vote at each general assembly for the renewal of the blockade, only a minority actively participate in it each morning.

• To get rid of the CPE/CNE, the movement must go beyond the stage it is at. A struggle confined only to the university milieu, cannot reach this stage.

• Contrary to the marginal attempts at pseudo-radicalisation which place themselves outside the movement and which do not take any account of the movement’s realities, and contrary to the days of action called by the unions, the extension of the movement will only take place if, at the very least, the workers are convinced of the need to take an active part in it.

• For the student’s part, half of whom are working – do we have to say it again? –, it is necessary to go and meet other workers, particularly in the area around the faculties.

• At Jussieu the strikers have already occupied the university restaurant and established initial contact with the employees there. What’s more, in the Javelot annex, the lecturers have gone on strike with their students.

• Even if they are heading in the right direction, these actions have never addressed themselves to the construction workers of Jussieu. The workers of the BTP ('bâtiment et travaux publics' , Buildings and Public Works) also experience job insecurity. For example the BTP is the sector which most makes use of the new contract with 24.2% of new jobs since September 2005 being CNE. Employment in the BTP also makes use of job insecurity

• The BTP sector is booming, particularly because of the construction of new housing (363,400 housing units under construction in 2004 and more than 400,000 in 2005) but also because of big public works.

• This dynamism is accompanied by a strong demand for labour and consequently there has been a net creation of close to 200,000 jobs between 1998 and 2005. Be it in public works or buildings more and more companies cannot increase their production because of lack of staff (39% in October 2005). Even though this shortage of workers pushes up wages, the BTP sector continues to employ a significant number of insecure workers. In 2005, about 135,000 people were temp workers and 70,000 were permanent of the 1,736,000 employees in the sector. Let’s note that temp work allows them to deal with the uneven recruitment needs of the big sites, by definition temporary, to cope with the 'high season' of activity, but also to recruit for the permanent workers required after that. So it is estimated that a quarter of assignments end with the offer of a job. We can therefore presume that here temp work constitutes a first stage filter for removing the workers most resistant to the harsh conditions of exploitation in construction, even in a situation of high permanent employment.

• Finally, to compensate for the number of workers expected to retire between now and 2010, the sector must take on no less than 100,000 newly qualified young people, providing an opportunity for the massive use of the CNE and the future CPE. Market conditions in the BTP are favourable to struggle.

• The labour market conditions today are favourable to the BTP workers: the present shortage of labour, combined with the necessity of replacing retired workers and the growth of the sector, can give considerable advantages to the workers’ eventual struggles.

• We can’t easily imagine a boss beginning to lay off workers if he is not certain of being able to take them on afterwards, above all on a site which can’t easily afford to take them on late.

• In the restoration sector, where labour market conditions are similar to those of the BTP, employers are already forced to only offer permanent contracts to attract employees.

Because of this:

• The students and construction workers must get together so as to understand their respective conditions of work.

• When we meet a second time it will be a question of elaborating common perspectives of struggle, not only against the CPE/CNE, but also against all the forms of job insecurity which preceded them.

Obviously these proposals are open to all interested workers, from around Jussieu or not.

Meet on Thursday 30 March from 16.30 to 17.30 in front of the main entrance to Jussieu, to get together with all interested workers and students.

Why pass exams?
It seems that some of the students are worried, in this lovely spring, about the practical details of the exams at the end of the year. To begin by calming things down a bit, let’s propose a first basis for discussion: university selection will not be any more severe than in previous years. The administrations of the various university departments know very well how many repeat years they can allow themselves each year, and how many places they have at their disposal the following year. What’s more, we can even say that the blockade of the university for several months will have very little effect on the result of the exams. The same proportion as usual will go on to the next year.

Also as usual, it will not be a question of the students having gained knowledge or not, but of passing their exams. It is not necessary to be good. It is sufficient just to be better than that proportion of students that the administration intends to hold back. If all the students succeeded in passing their exams, this poor university institution would actually have problems making the diplomas which it issues seem attractive.

We can ask ourselves why students bother to pass exams, when, for most of them, it means having to take courses that they don’t really give a shit about and risking a repeat year. Above all it means that even amongst those who manage to land a diploma, one year after getting it, 28.6% alternate between unemployment, inactivity and temporary work. Only 67.6% land a permanent job. By comparison, those who have no diploma (not even a Certificate of General Education) have a 42.7% chance of finding a permanent job after a year. The difference is not as great as they would have us believe.

Businesses know very well that a diploma isn’t proof of any competence. The profusion of work experience courses, fixed term contracts and temp work (even for those who leave engineering schools) as prerequisites to getting a less precarious job, show without any doubt how important an aptitude for the work is for selection. This is more rigorous than obtaining a university diploma.

For society a student is maybe a future employee or a future unemployed person, but above all an employee or unemployed right now (45.5% of students work during their studies). Many people are in higher education for a longer time now, meaning an ever increasing gap between leaving high school and entering the labour market. If the two million students signed on at the ANPE (job-centre) rather than answer the call of courses, the poor government would have serious difficulty holding the level of unemployment at less than 10%.

This is why one of the strong points of the movement against the CPE has been the direct attack on the terrain of work, against a law affecting students, amongst others, not only as youth but above all, as workers. This collective movement, with the aim of defending our interests as employees, shows once again that it is possible for us to collectively take our destiny in our own hands. If we end up unconditionally defending university competition, by accepting that selection which is only one of the forms of social selection, it would be a defeat on the same scale as what we have already won. It would be a brutal return to the barbarism of the war of all against all, just at the moment when a door for leaving it together seems to be appearing over the horizon.

If we can make the all-powerful state back down, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be capable of not only deciding the manner in which education takes place in the universities, but also of making it what we want it to be.

[prol-position news #7 | 11/2006]