This is the first strike in the company’s history. In the Vaucluse, the workers of Charles Faraud-Charles and Alice, manufacturer of compotes, have just obtained a salary increase after a strike which lasted twelve days. The longest for Monaim. In Carpentras, in his cozy living room, resting on his Moroccan-style sofas, the 40-year-old worker welcomes us with a hot coffee. Tired, it starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. The dark circles under his eyes are also the marks of his twelve days on strike. “I’m exhausted! The strike left its mark”, he explains.
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The strike ended a week ago, on January 14, at the Charles and Alice sites in Monteux and Sorgues. Twelve days to hold the picket even at night in the mistral and the cold: “It was -6°C. But that’s what pushed me to do it, which I am like everyone else. When I discuss it with my colleagues, my friends, we can’t do it, we’re all at the same point.”
“We don’t have a restaurant. The few times we go out is to take the little ones to fast food. It’s been two years since we went on vacation.”Monaim, employee of Charles and Alice
This father of three children, employed since 2017, is a machine operator. He also checks the marking or screwing of compote gourds for insufficient pay: “We turn around between 1,500 and 1,700 euros net by doing the three-eights. If we only have one week of nights in the month, we make 1,450 euros. Honestly, we can’t do it .” For Monaim, “You have to be careful with everything. Before, we filled up for 55 euros. Now, it takes 75 euros. Everything has increased from eggs, flour, rice or pasta. It’s not easy. We dresses the same, we have the same cars, we have the same bills, we can’t do it anymore, frankly, it’s been two or three years. It’s too expensive.”
A purchasing power that has only the name, derisory, impossible to put money aside. This is what prompted Monaim and 80% of the employees of the production line to stop working. And it paid off. Thanks to their mobilization, they snatched a salary increase. “We got 85 euros, we basically wanted 100 euros net, he says. So I think we did well, I think that already, it will give a good boost. This strike is therefore a success for the worker: “In no case did we do it against the factory. I work for the brand and I’m proud of it. I like it when my children eat in the canteen, and say to me: ‘Dad, we ate your Compotes today’. But behind it, we don’t have enough recognition. From time to time, the company would have to give us a little note. That would encourage us even more.”
Will his presidential vote be influenced by the candidates’ proposals on purchasing power? “The question does not even place itself, replies Monaim. We want to improve the standard of living by already lowering taxes, by lowering everyone’s bills a little. With this inflation, people don’t make it anymore.” But what they managed to get is well below what it would take to live decently. Despite this increase many workers will continue to ask for installments on wages, consumer loans, others will also keep the odd job they have in addition to earn a little money.
“We are in 2022 and we are at war to be able to earn a decent living. We are happy to have had 85 euros, but it is worth much more than that.”Frédérique Hortal, CGT union delegate
Frédérique Hortal, the company’s CGT union representative, carried out a survey of employees in October to find out what they have left to live for and what they would need to get by at the end of the month goes well beyond these 85 euros. “The average was still that there was a lack of 350 euros gross to be able to have a slightly more normal life, exposes the trade unionist. It is a need. Employees need to regain some purchasing power!” A sequence marked Frederique Hortal, when the CEO of the group came to present the company’s figures to them: “He showed us that there were millions, that the company was doing well… When you see things like that, you don’t understand. You say to yourself: ‘But us, what we are in asking you, it’s 300,000 euros and you, you put 1.5 million in a company based in Amsterdam! “
For Rosie it was the first strike of her life. Her colleagues affectionately call the 60-year-old line driver “Granny”. In her kitchen surrounded by her chihuahuas she is getting ready for her night. Starting at 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. For dinner tonight: carrot peas with pork. The empty tin can next to the slow cooker is a discount brand. Because Rosie also must count everything: “In November. I earned 1,530 euros net. After fifteen years, arriving two years from retirement, it’s unacceptable. That’s why we went on strike because wages were too low.
“Once you’ve paid your fixed charges, you’re left with nothing but your eyes to cry on. I’m overdrawn every month. It’s purchasing power that got us out because we don’t can’t get any more of these starvation wages.”
His children help him financially. “My son-in-law also regularly gets me wood to warm me., says Rosie. It’s really not normal, it’s [le monde] Upside down. And it hurts me somewhere. Normally, I should be self-sufficient. It’s unfortunate, I hardly buy anything anymore… There, it’s the sales, for example. I did not go to do them, I have no more money.”
The red jogging she’s wearing, Rosie got it for 12 euros and that was a while ago. She can’t afford anything better. For her shopping, she uses deferred debit cards. When asked if she is sensitive to what the presidential candidates are proposing and will propose, the worker is disillusioned: “I have always voted, since I was 18 years old. I’ll go vote, but I don’t trust them anymore because they’re all liars. The bowl is good as they say because they all fight to get there!” For this 60-year-old woman, politicians know how to make promises: “But when they are in power, they think only of themselves, but not of ours. That the bosses share their wealth with their workers and that we put decent wages in order to be able to live.”
It’s time to go to work. Rosie slams the door. The mistral is blowing hard tonight. She has calculated that in two years, when she retires, she will receive 790 euros. If her purchasing power does not increase, she thinks of redoing sewing work to be able to meet her needs.