Appeared in the 19th century, strike funds, which make it possible to minimize losses for employees on strike days based on the solidarity of donations, have regained a place of choice in the strategy of trade unions in recent years, faced with a tense economic context, marked by inflation.
This Wednesday, March 15 already marks the eighth day of mobilization against the Borne government’s pension reform project. And for some demonstrators, it is the eighth day of strike, that is to say as many days of wages lost. And the addition begins to be salty.
Impoverishment, a key factor
Faced with a government that does not want to back down, the unions can count on a tool to mobilize the troops and make the movement last in the streets: strike funds, which allow employees to strike while receiving compensation to offset part of the deductions from wages. Appeared during the revolt of the Canuts, in Lyon, in 1831, at a time when the right to strike did not yet exist, strike funds are flourishing in today’s tense economic context. ” The key factor is the impoverishment of a part of society – highlighted by the yellow vests movement – which from the beginning of the month no longer has control over its budget because of credits and direct debits “, explains the sociologist Gabriel Rosenman, a former railway worker hired at SUD-Rail, who is preparing a thesis on the subject.
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The funds have a life-saving role in preventing employees from asking themselves twice the question of their participation in social movements. Since the beginning of the year, almost every union has gone online with its strike fund. Gabriel Rosenman distinguishes two types of boxes. On the one hand, there are those put in place by the unions for their members, such as the CFDT reserve which has a fund of 150 million euros fed by contributions, and those, ephemeral, which appear on the occasion of a strike movement and which disappear immediately afterwards, open to external donations.
” In any case, the goal is to support the strikers financially, but also politically. Cleaning ladies at the Ibis-Batignolles hotel in Paris could not have survived without these funds and their unpaid wages “, underlines the sociologist, who also recalls their important role in the last movement against pensions in 2019marked by the popularization of online jackpots, which have made it possible to open up worker solidarity “.
New strike management policies
Recourse to strike funds has also been democratized in reaction to the new strike management policies practiced in certain companies. ” Since 2010-2014, end-of-conflict negotiations, which made it possible to negotiate the staggering of strike days and to smooth salary deductions over several months, have disappeared. The SNCF, the RATP or even La Poste now produce payslips at 0 euros from the first month of the strike continues Gabriel Rosenman.
More than ever, solidarity is required, especially among donors who cannot strike, like retirees. For Gabriel Rosenman, the constitution of these funds does not weaken the mobilization, on the contrary. According to a questionnaire conducted by the former railway worker, 66% of them define themselves as activists and have participated in demonstrations. Their involvement is therefore not limited to donations.
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