You have just been appointed co-general delegates. Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
Simon Duteil. I was born in Le Havre, I have been teaching history-geography in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) for more than ten years. I started to militate at the university, in South student, with anti-racist struggles, against the extreme right and in favor of ecological mobilizations.
Murielle Guilbert. I passed the tax exam in 1998, but the beginning of my activism dates back to 2001, when I joined the management of large companies (DGE), in Pantin. I was at SNUI at the time. We entered into a dispute with management over a compensation issue, with 77% of the officers on strike. Then, the differences in treatment between men and women in the field quickly made me aware of feminist issues. I have been co-facilitator of the women commission at Solidaires since 2017. I became national secretary that year.
Simon Duteil, you are a teacher, how do you react to the terrible murder of this Friday?
Simon Duteil: My first thoughts naturally go to the relatives of the victim, to colleagues and to students. As teachers of geo history and (teachers in general), I can tell you that we will continue to work every day for the emancipation of students, to provide them with tools for understanding. We will continue this task, whatever the fascist attacks, wherever they come from.
You have just held an extraordinary convention. How is your union doing at the moment?
Murielle Guilbert. Solidaires brings together 110,000 members. We are representative in 35 collective agreements. At the national level, our results remain modest, but we are well established in the public service, and we observe a dynamic of development in certain sectors: IT, shops and services, etc. Of course, the context remains difficult for unions in general, but we have been able to measure, since the confinement, the expectations of employees vis-à-vis organizations.
Simon Duteil. I would like to stress an important point. In recent years, we have been able to achieve a militant transition: many members have retired – those who were already active in the years 1970-80 – and we have succeeded in renewing our union structures. For the rest, we have suffered from social transformations in our traditional establishments: when the number of postal workers decreases, for example, it automatically reduces our workforce. Nonetheless, we have made our entry into growing industries, such as Amazon. It is rather reassuring.
What will be the priorities of Solidaires in the months and years to come?
Simon Duteil. We will be holding another congress in six months, during which we will deal in particular with issues of discrimination, and the link between ecology and work. This extraordinary congress was above all centered on the analysis of the current period, on the way in which capitalism continues to crush workers and destroy the planet, in a logic of accumulation of profit. We debated the current priorities. First, fight the pandemic. This is an opportunity to recall that it would have been necessary to reinvest massively in public services, to impose free masks, in short, so many choices that were not made by the government. The other immediate priority is to deal with the explosion of unemployment and precariousness. We are going to put forward the 32-hour track, the division of work time can answer a large part of our unemployment problems. Finally, we must ask ourselves about the social and ecological transition. We do not have a turnkey project, everything will have to be built together, with the workers.
Murielle Guilbert. We have incorporated into our congress motion a reaction to the latest decisions of Emmanuel Macron. For us, the curfew is not a trivial decision, it is an imposed choice of society, in a global context of liberticide. The government chooses to give primacy to the economy (work, consume …), to the detriment of the health of employees. This curfew aims to restrict social, associative and militant life, while the failures of the government’s health policy are obvious. We have issued a broad invitation to the unions and the social movement, for a common reaction, next Monday.
Interview by Cyprien Boganda