Place du Caquet in Saint-Denis, a young man, tall, finely curled moustache, wearing clogs as under the old regime. He found them at a Parisian flea market a month ago, don’t really know the essence, but provide insulation and unfailing comfort, except perhaps on the top of the foot. He has no intention of reclaiming a pitchfork and leading a peasant revolt: he only likes clogs. He came down from his house, as one goes out in slippers, to listen to the brass band that has just set up in the square, and perhaps the speeches against the a-cashier form that follow. He twirls his moustache: he is a baker and his job is solid, so he has nothing to complain about. He adds: “Finally for now.” The economic context seems morbid to him, with these soaring energy prices, and his profession, like all professions, would suffer: “Will the people be able to eat bread?”
The context: the Ile-de-France branches of four organizations (CGT Unemployed and Precarious, AC!, the National Movement for the Unemployed and Precarious and Apeis) which fight against unemployment and precariousness have called for their annual gathering, twentieth, all on a very special moment. In line with its unemployment insurance reform from 2021, the government has just tightened the compensation rules a little further. To the reduction in the amount of compensation paid to precarious workers between two short contracts, now, depending on the economic situation, a reduction in the duration of the compensation is added. The Labor Minister, Olivier Dussopt, has crossed out the simple equation which states that a day of work entitles a day of earned unemployment to add a new coefficient to the calculation, 0.75 for an employee under 53 would lose his job , i.e. a reduction of 25% in his unemployment benefit period. The measure applies from 1 February.
The forty activists therefore met in Saint-Denis, somewhere “symbolic” according to Pierre-Edouard Magnan, President of the National Movement for the Unemployed and Precarious – the city has pockets full of misery, 37% of the inhabitants are poor according to INSEE figures from 2019. In the square we hear the crackle of coins, which clash, is there trade in cigarettes, limes and coriander branches, and a Carrefour, from which a father emerges with three hands holding his boy, a cart and a Christmas tree. Victoire, 34, from the unemployed CGT, regrets that such a reform, “scandal”, drains not all the unemployed in the region, but especially the left-wing political organizations, which, in his opinion, have not fought enough against the government’s fluctuations. Victoire has been unemployed for two months. For years, her job as a waitress has backfired on her. She resumed her studies, obtained a master 2 in philosophy, wanted to work in publishing. He is only offered internships. She is the mother of a child, receives only 832 euros a month due to the reform of the unemployment insurance last year, is considering a consumer loan to pay her bills. “I’m afraid of the coming months”, she says. Pôle emploi could well write it off soon: she rejects the waitress offers that are offered to her. She mentions several numbers, the unemployment rate, the poverty rate, talks about “disaster areas”, cites the International Monetary Fund. Deep down, Victoire is sure of one thing: “Millions of people will sink into misery.”
“The fridge is banging its beak”
The tightening of the rules is based on high inflation (primarily energy and food prices) and for Pierre-Edouard Magnan, “the unemployed and insecure are on the front line”. According to the president of the MNCP, “The government has arrogated the right to do what it wants”. “Macron endangers citizens!” continues Serge Havet, chairman of the AC association!, who swingsArticle 23 or 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” to prosecute the President of the Republic. The man explains that for many people, “the fridge is knocking” on the 25th of the month and the wallets are dry. The people, they “are exhausted”.
Mohammed, a bespectacled sixty-year-old, has known this gathering since 2013. He had met him at the time when he was pounding the pavement in the thirty years of the march of the beurs. Since then he has been there, depending on the year. Unemployment surprised him three years ago, after three decades in the same box, an engineering design office. “Le chomedu”, he says, clearing his mind. He lets his sentences end by themselves: “On the social level…” Where “looking for a job, pfff”. Mohammed found a new position for a few months, but did not adapt, blame “IT tools“, at “physical inactivity”. He won’t get his full rate if he doesn’t come back. Before he had “granny”was ready for “climb mountains”, neglected his weekends to burn. But at his age “the arrival”retirement, “is so close”. He philosophizes before turning his back on: “It’s consistent with humans, isn’t it?”