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[Interview] “Unions must demonstrate that they can be of use to the least protected workers” – Debates

You publish “Let’s cultivate the democratic I” on June 17th. What would be the threats hanging over her?

The authoritarian temptation, conspiracy, Islamist separatism but also that of a growing part of the population which is not interested in the republican pact. There are indicators such as the constant decline in the rate of participation in elections, whether political or union. The explanation is the inability to curb the inequalities produced by the global economic system. Of Vilvoorde at Bethune, we had, in thirty years, all the difficulties to be able to really act on the course of the things.

What would be the answers to be provided?

We must first realize the depth of this democratic crisis. Then, democratic organizations and individuals must mobilize to reinvent a pact of public debate. The Republic will be stronger if it is a conscious choice of each individual. For that, we must seek out all the citizens who, whatever their vote, are in a separatism, whether by disappointment or by abandonment.

What place should unions take in this fight?

We sweep in front of our door. Organizations stay strong where they exist, but overall they protect people who already have protections. There are however 9 million people who are insufficiently protected: employees of VSEs, temporary workers, workers alternating unemployment and precarious contracts and non-tenured public officials. They are turning away from trade unionism and probably also from the democratic framework. If we do not try to hang them up, they will abandon themselves to populist theses or to abstention. There is now a part of the population very adapted to the world as it is changing and a large part that sees only the suffering and inequalities. Our democracy cannot be based solely on a happy minority.

The Unsa has decided to exclude two federation officials who have announced that they are candidates on RN lists. Is exclusion the right answer?

Those who commit to l‘Unsa sign a charter of values. If some people want to be the banner of a party that has the project to fragment society, that carries messages of hatred, then they are excluding themselves. The RN seeks to demonize itself but when you look closely, this party is not part of the Republican arc. He is the enemy of trade union freedoms: he wants to suppress any level of representativeness beyond the company, he wants to reduce the means of trade unions. Our decision is not at odds with our responsibility to reach out to the voters of this party and respond to their problems. The most important thing is not to make the mistake of Hillary Clinton who called Donald Trump’s voters “deplorable”.

Concretely, what is Unsa doing to hang up these distant employees?

We have set up an offer for employees of VSEs, which will extend to the least protected employees. It offers the services of a works council and personalized support. We have built a network of local “Zaideurs” who provide concrete answers: finding an attending physician, regulating work on Sundays, obtaining a salary increase… The idea is to show that unionism is not reserved for large companies or politicized slang: it is also about solidarity, proximity and service. We have to show that we can be of use to them.

Emmanuel Macron says “do not exclude anything” on a relaunch of the pension reform. What will the position of Unsa be?

Now is not the time to relaunch this debate when it has no visibility on how to end the crisis. It could even stall the stimulus. The Unsa, either, does not refrain from anything on the actions it will lead. We will see if a hard social re-entry will become a necessity.

“Let’s cultivate the democratic I”, Interview with Madani Cheurfa. Editions de l’Aube, 240 pages, 17 euros.

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