Dominique Méda: “This crisis requires new ways of working”

The health crisis offers an opportunity to change work, support each other. Isn’t it above all a risk of unemployment and additional insecurity?

What the crisis has brought to light are all these “essential” workers, who have allowed us to live. We have become aware of the absolute importance of those who are little regarded, often placed in the category of “low-skilled jobs”. A survey, carried out in the United Kingdom on 2,500 people who died from Covid, confirmed that frontline workers – those of the care, supermarkets, public transport – took all the risks, alongside caregivers.

This is what made us want to write this manifesto. This crisis is less an opportunity than a requirement to build new ways of working. Our society cannot continue to function by seeing workers as pure resources. It must recognize their investment by giving them greater powers, especially in their business.

To the voice of shareholders, you would like to add that of these “Investors at work” for all decisions. How to impose such a change in governance?

In the social and solidarity economy or, of course, in cooperatives, there is already a form of democracy, according to the principle one member = one vote. But if we want all companies to give labor investors the same place as capital investors, we will have to go through the law.

Some oppose us that shareholders take risks; we oppose them that employees have shown that they sometimes work at the risk of their lives. Others argue that the shareholders own the company. We reject this idea, which the lawyer Jean-Philippe Robé has notably shown to be inaccurate. The shareholders only own the shares of the company. The company is a broader concept and in our view it comprises two constituent parts, one of which is for the moment set aside. Of course, we are aware of the revolution that this implies. And we do not claim, with this manifesto, to go into the details of the law, which should be amply discussed in Parliament, as within organizations.

You make another proposal, which is the employment guarantee. What does it consist of?

We cannot leave the management of jobs to the market, and we must allow everyone, as the Declaration of Human Rights indicates, to access it. The employment guarantee is a tool: the State finances a set of jobs likely to meet a certain number of social and environmental needs. In France, the Territory zero long-term unemployed experiment is based on the idea of ​​transforming the cost generated by unemployment into funded jobs, but it remains limited.

However, ecological reconversion requires the setting up of very broad mechanisms to support the vast movements of labor that will take place between the sectors which will close and those to be developed. This implies anticipating, establishing maps of threatened sectors and skills, supporting people one by one. This could be the role of a public climate service, which would be both a waiting area, a space for training and re-employment.

You worked the 35-hour week, campaigned for the four-day week. Do you still think that you have to reduce your working time?

I have defended the same ideal from the start, that everyone, woman and man, access the diverse range of human activities: productive, political, family, personal development. And I still believe in sharing the volume of work available at a time T fairly. In other words, everything must be done to bring those who are excluded back into employment and not to reserve full-time men and part-time women. But ecological reconversion will increase the volume of human work, due to the necessary reduction in chemical or mechanical adjuvants. Whether it will end up making weeks longer or shorter, I don’t know. What matters is to promote this rule of justice.

The crisis is also causing other changes, such as teleworking, absent from your work …

A large part of the employees say they appreciated teleworking, because it saves them long hours of transport and, sometimes, bad working conditions. But, in recent months, we have also witnessed growing inequalities, between those who could telework and those who were at the front, such as between teleworkers, depending on their family or housing configuration. We know, for example, that women have been much worse off than men, with only a quarter of them benefiting from a room dedicated to teleworking against 47% of men, according to an INED survey.

My great fear is that teleworking will further accentuate the individualization, or even the atomization of work. Digital technology has allowed a new division of labor that has nothing to envy to the chains of Taylorism. We can only fight against this tendency by supervising it and by reconstituting the collective of the company, that is to say all those that it makes work for its profit, the employees as the service providers for example. Hence the importance of democratizing the company.


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