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First European Summer University of ATTAC, Saarbrucken, august 2008

For a guaranteed revenue and the continuity of social rights : Platform of the jobless and precarious workers for a guaranteed decent income and social rights.

Seminar Flexicurity and social dismantling in Europe

For over 30 years we have been confronted by persistent mass unemployment and the growth of unstable jobs. It is time to think about a new system of Social protection and social rights for people without jobs or in a situation where they alternate work and unemployment.


Unemployment is the preferred method of neoliberalism and a key weapon of big business and governments to maintain low wages and dismantle social rights. This also helps to explain why unemployment benefits are constantly reduced : less than half of registered jobless are currently receiving benefits paid by UNEDIC [1], and periods are continually shortened.

The unemployed are subject to harassment by UNEDIC and the public service of unemployment management [2] to force them to accept any job, regardless of conditions of wages and employment. Confronted by this attack, led by MEDEF [3], we support the right to a living wage and decent employment, with the right to a guaranteed income and for the continuity of rights for all salaried or unemployed workers.

• Since the creation of UNEDIC , unemployment benefits have constantly decreased. Conditions of access to benefits have hardened at a time when deregulation and job instability are becoming wide spread in the labour market. Compared to 1979, a wage earner had just to qualify for 3 months for entitlement to unemployment benefits ; whereas today, only the entertainement sector still have rights based on 507 hours of work over 10 months. Whereas other people employed for less than 6 months over 22 months remain excluded from entitlement to unemployment benefits. The UNEDIC convention of 2006 has meant amputation of benefits for 187 000 people. Part-time work has grown, and rules governing combined benefits and wages have hardened. From now on, this will only be allowed on condition that just 110 hours per month are worked (previously136). Under this unemployment insurance scheme, the losers include seasonal workers, who can no longer have more than 3 successive periods of benefits ; for the first time in 2005, there was no increase in unemployment benefits.

• The system of intermittent entertainment workers unemployment benefits (annexe 8 and 10 of the UNEDIC convention) has been seriously undermined by the suppression of the anniversary date of reappraisal of benefits rights. Changes concern the shortening of the length of benefits period to 8 months (previosly12 months) and a very little recognition for hours worked in other activities. These attacks have thrown many thousands of people into unstable working conditions. Only 42 000 people remain entitled to an “allocation de fonds transitoire” (AFT), that was hard won in the 2004 struggle. The AFT disappeared in the Protocol of 18 April 2006. The joint platform declaration of the Coordination des Intermittents et Précaires and the CGT was then formalised by a “following committee” of the National Assembly and this gave rise to a bill supported by more than 470 deputies. However, this bill was not even examined by the government or UNEDIC partners, although it was considered to be the most appropriate and the most satisfactory.

• Training schemes. Benefits for training and for job training (“allocation formation-reclassement” AFR) was set up in 1988 and allowed the jobless to keep their benefits entitlements through out their training for a minimum period of 40 hours to a maximum period of 3 years. Reduced in 1997, and finally suppressed in 2001, it was replaced by the Aid Plan for Return to Employment (PARE). Grants for training became conditional to approval by the job centres (ASSEDIC) for short periods only, with training limited to sectors with a shortage of workers, such as construction, hotel and catering.

More than 6 million people depend on social minimum benefits (3.3 million and their families). Frauds involve less than 0,00014 %, and people on RMI (“minimum revenue of insertion”) are subject to very strict controls. Reforms of social minimum incomes have for principal measures applications of fines ranging up to 4500 euros. The new “allocation unique d’insertion” is a single benefit covering people on RMI, on single parent’s allowance and on ASS (“allocation spécifique de solidarité”, or specific solidarity allocation). According to the government, the object is to make return to work the basis of its social policies. In 1990, the monthly RMI was equivalent to 67 hours of the social minimum wage (SMIC) ; by 2004 it was reduced to 50 hours !

Women are more subject to precarious employment and unemployment. The trend towards job instability has considerably increased and is now the norm for the younger generation : 80% of new jobs are short-term contracts for an average period of one and a half month. The CNE (“contrat nouvelle embauche" or new engagement contract [4]) set up in August 2005, abrogated in 2008, allowed for lay off without either notice or valid reasons at any moment of its duration during the first two years, which means weakening labour and trade union rights for employees. This was a bonus for SMEs who obviously prefered short-term CNEs with less labour rights, and for which CNE simply replaced CDDs (short-term contracts) with standard labour rights, or CDIs (without fixed end contracts). There are also 800 000 probation schemes, mostly unpaid and outside labour laws, which substitute to real jobs. Termination of short-term contracts and interim work is the main cause of unemployment, before dismissals. We consider that companies practicing job flexibility without control should pay for the social costs engended.

Our platform

THE ORGANISATIONS OF THE UNEMPLOYED and fighting against unemployment, AC ! APEIS, MNCP, the associations of temporary workers, Generation Précaire, Stop Précarité, the Coordination des Intermittants et Précaires, the Collectif National pour les Droits des Femmes, Act-Up, and the Confédération Paysanne, consider with interest the propositions from trade union organisations concerning a “new status for salaried employee” and for a “professional social security”, proposed, in particular those proposed by Union Syndicale Solidaire and CGT. They claim that any system of protection against dismissals or for economic and social security will be the answer to all the challenges of our times only if it is open to all potential salaried, whether in or out of employment, or prime-time or independent workers. Nobody should be left outside. We demand a universal system of protection in reaction to the balkanisation of the system of unemployment insurance and we reject any stigmatising of the jobless living on public assistance. We refuse the so call logic of workfare, or learnfare. A guaranteed income must allow for a decent standard of living. The associations of the jobless and precarious workers demand a speedy start to negotiations for a total overhaul of the system of unemployment insurance, as it is completely inadequate for the current needs of the time, and we demand the creation of new rights for the unemployed and the entire workforce based on the following demands :

Access for all jobless, unstable workers and first time job seekers (including : workers in discontinued employment, students on apprenticeships, workers forced to accept part-time work, people on minimum social benefits, including those on handicap benefits, etc …) to a "status of social and professional life" guaranteed in all circumstances (such as : layoffs, contract terminations, end of interim work, dismissals …) and with the maintenance of a decent individual income based on the revised social minimum wage (SMIC) as a benchmark, and of social rights like training, retiring pensions, career experience …, and the possibility for workers in imposed part-time jobs to change to full-time work on demand. This status of social and professional life should be extended to include housing and health rights for all. Everyone should have the right to freely dispose of their life-style choices and not be subject to a predefined notion of employability, or subject to methods of forced job insertion. Everyone should have the right to a freely chosen training course (university, professional …) with the assurance having a decent grant. Everyone should have papers allowing to work.

The creation of a national interprofessional insurance fund, in order to finance the setting up of the status of social and professional life. It must be based on a new sharing of wealth produced. It would be funded by a new form of social tax (a tax on companies responsible for job instability) and by State aid (in part financed by the redeployment of funds dedicated to social minimum benefits and grants to the business sector). The management of these funds would be assumed by elected unionists from trade union organisations, the employers’ organisations and state representation, with the obligation of transparency, the validation of decisions by the associations of the unemployed and precarious workers, and including all those primarily concerned.

October 2006

First subscribers : AC ! [5], APEIS [6], ACT-UP [7], CIP-IDF [8], CNDF [9], Confédération Paysanne [10], DAL [11], Fondation Copernic, Génération Précaire [12], Marches européennes, MNCP [13], No Vox, Stop Précarité, Union syndicale Solidaires.

Notes

[1UNEDIC is the french organism which collects social contributions for unemployment and which pay social benefits to the unemployed. It is runt by employers associations and trade unions.

[2The two organisms will be united in 2009.

[3MEDEF is the main employers association in France.

[4It was set up for businesses of less than 20 employees, which represents 6 millions of employees in France.

[5Agir ensemble contre le chômage, Act together against unemployment.

[6Association pour l’Emploi, l’Information et la Solidarité, Association for Employment, Information and Solidarity.

[7Association of seropositives.

[8Coordination des Intermittents et Précaires d’Ile de France, Coordination of intermittents ans precarious of Parisian Region.

[9Collectif National pour les Droits des Femmes, National Collective for Female Rights.

[10Peasant Confederation.

[11Droit au Logement, Right to House.

[12Precarious Generation, Probationers association.

[13Mouvement National des Chômeurs et des Précaires, National Movement of unemployed and precarious.


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