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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: "Nicolas Sarkozy veut éradiquer le chômage ou supprimer les chômeurs ?"

by Interview carried out by Pierre Duquesne

Does Nicolas Sarkozy want to get rid of unemployment or jobseekers themselves?

Translated Sunday 19 February 2012, by Pauline Harrowell and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Jean François Kieffer, national secretary of CGT Unemployed, is calling on the 4.8 million jobless to turn out on a massive scale on February 29th against the austerity measures, as a protest against being stigmatised by Nicolas Sarkozy. In an interview in Saturday’s Figaro Magazine, the “president-candidate” proposes holding a referendum to require jobseekers – after being given compulsory training - to accept any job offered. Interview:

Key words: unemployment, austerity, purchasing power, cgt, sarkozy, jobs, interview

What’s your reaction to Sarkozy’s proposal?

Jean François Kieffer: It’s outrageous. For months on end jobless people have been called lazy or spongers. The RSA benefit payment has been compared to a cancer on our society. Today, yet again, Nicolas Sarkozy has been hanging the jobless out to dry. He is taking exactly the same line on this question as the National Front. He’s trying to drive a wedge between workers out of work and those in employment, and is also hardening his rhetoric towards immigrant workers. What is he trying to achieve – civil war?

How do you respond to the suggestion that the unemployed are work-shy?

Jean François Kieffer: The unemployed, whose purchasing power is constantly dwindling, are in an unenviable situation. Gas prices are going through the roof, electricity and petrol are going up, not to mention VAT rises. Against this background how can people be happy with 460 euros RSA benefit or the 800 euros which represents the average payment made to jobseekers? They didn’t ask to lose their jobs. They just want to find a job and live a normal life.

Can the unemployed be forced to accept a job?

Jean François Kieffer: Taking one person off the unemployment statistics won’t create one more job. In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan is to cut unemployment by sharply driving up job insecurity, as in Germany. No new jobs will be created, but employees will be forced to accept part-time work, and be paid peanuts.

The worst thing is that for five years no employment policy has been introduced. Nicolas Sarkozy is planning to provide compulsory training for the 4.8 million jobless in France. But why didn’t he do this before? Today only 10% of jobseekers receive training, restricted to posts that are hard to fill. Sarkozy has been responsible for the increase to 700 million overtime hours worked every year. This alone is the equivalent of 400,000 full-time posts.

If he really wants to cut unemployment he should start by halting the job cuts in the public sector. With all these setbacks you have to wonder if he’s trying to get rid of unemployment, or of jobseekers themselves. If Sarkozy wants referendums, why doesn’t he hold them on the need to increase private sector wages, pensions, jobseekers’ allowance? Why doesn’t he hold them on restricting the unaccounted sums of public money spent on reducing employers’ contributions, which do nothing to stimulate employment?

What are you planning to do?

Jean François Kieffer: 4.8 million unemployed people represents a considerable force which should not allow itself to be rolled over, otherwise we will see the same situation as in Greece where their government has just halved their income again. We’re calling on everyone to take part in the European demonstration against austerity on 29th February. We need to be there. The only referendum that counts is the one in May when we can say no to Nicolas Sarkozy, to tell him to "clear off!".

Other articles:
Nicolas Sarkozy would rather attack unemployed people than unemployment (PS Communiqué)
The hidden victims of the social crisis
Sarkozy, the Sunday democrat (PCF Communiqué)

See also:
Our special section on unemployment

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