Monday, March 20, 2006

A million marching, but for whom?

The onerous conditions placed on employers creates an environment where valuable people, for the obvious financial reasons HAVE to be exploited wherever they can. I’ll say it again – these “contracts,” especially the CDI (INTERMINABLE employment contract,) is painful for the whole society because it curbs growth. This is basically a case of wanting what you think is good for you so much, that you’re willing to rob the young of their future.

The problem is that these ‘yoots’ have grown up in an environment of factional political warfare where resources are intentionally made meager. They have been trained into the notion that only as a anonymous mob of Stepford children can they find some of the basic comforts in life that has become a standard expectation in the developed world.

The INTENTION is that no-one should ever, ever, ever fall ‘through the cracks.’ It’s reasoned rationalized that a lover rate of growth, worse pay, etc., etc., etc. is accepted for just that. It’s a load of yak dung. Even the union mobs have been sold a bill of goods.

Here is what one hard-done language instructor (who is an avid reader of this blog) tells us:

«The very designation of 'vacataire' is expressly forbidden by the French 'Code du Travail'. Nevertheless, the French Ministry of Education and the various university rectors continues to employ hundreds of language teachers classified as such.

I write concerning the situation of several hundred 'vacataire' language instructors at various campuses in Paris and the provinces. Our working conditions in terms of even the most minimal interpretation of French labor laws are probably the very worst in France: no contract, no guarantee of being re-hired from one semester to the next, no sick leave, no vacation pay, no retirement credit for hours worked, salaries paid once every six months (in certain cases, once a year) the case of the current lockdown of the universities, no payment whatsoever for the classes that we can no longer teach..

When one realizes that everyone from the cleaning staff to our French colleagues will receive their normal salary no matter how long the strike lasts, the injustice of the situation becomes unbearable.

To this end - and by means of cut-and-pasted email listings of faculty members - I've started sending out an anonymous newsletter to all those concerned, including our very unconcerned French colleagues. It comes as no surprise that to date, not one of the latter has responded.

In short, it looks like we're out there alone. As usual.
As such, I've decided to try to find additional exposure of the situation.»
So he started a newsletter.
«Even if the Fac were vaporised tomorrow, everyone from the President all the way down to the cleaning staff would continue to receive a salary. Unions, collective agreements, contracts and labor legislation protect their interests. If past experience is any indication, the only losers in the present situation will be the 'vacataires' - who are not even covered by as precarious a contract as the one the students and nearly two-thirds of the French public are rejecting. A group of students decide to shut down the university and we have to pay for the imposed holiday. Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture?»
He continued, having had little response. Those that he received had a tone of fearfulness and frustration.
Dear Fellow Turkeys,

«It would appear that Liberty, Fraternity and Equality have their limits. Let's not even consider the concept of fair-play.

Nevertheless, three responses from our own group of galerians did come in, which I'll (anonymously) detail here, along with my own observations below.

1. "There is definitely a LOT wrong with this picture. I could go on forever, but "bottom line”, is there any action we can concert our efforts to take?.... We get paid as rarely as we do, as if at 6-month intervals they have no accounting departments, and as if we choose to work as vacatire because it's a vacation/holiday, and not a "vacation”/chargé de cours position. I've yet to have the surprise of being paid early. Getting paid late, on the other hand, where entire months can lapse as if they were minutes to the accountants, and where we are in the red, that is practically a given. We do our job with the conscientiousness of any "contractuel", and while we have to count our blessings for having work, there is abuse and that has to stop.

Please let me know if you have the wish and the possibility to make a plea for payment to the rectorat. There is a mutual agreement at the outset to fulfill a certain number of hours, and if the vacataires are present to fulfill their end of the obligation, and are also there because they have their bills to pay, the Rectorat should be pressed to honour their side of the bargain. My working conditions are such that I don't even have time to initiate action, but whenever I bump into vacataires, the isolated, individual response is the same sentiment you described. Is there any way we can make our own case collectively?

- A 'plea for payment' to the Rectorat, my dear? When did pleading get anyone anywhere with the Rectorat?
As for being paid in six-month intervals, I know people who are paid ONCE A YEAR - and still have to jump through absurd hoops just to get that yearly payment. By the way, I don't want to ruin your appetite, but has anyone ever asked themselves if our teaching hours at the various Facs are taken into account for our retirement pensions? I've heard bad and unbelievable things about this....

2. "Regarding the message on the Vacataires, has anyone seen any mention of
Vacataires during this whole debate? Are we just a well-kept secret? If so, is it our fault for not having a spokesperson?"

- We are indeed a well-kept and dirty little secret. So secret, in fact, that people either have no idea - or no interest - in our existence. As for having a spokesperson, how can non-persons have a spokesperson? A pure contradiction in terms, Watson.

3. "Well said... let's form a union!'' - Umm....there already is one, the SNES-SUP. Dogs and Vacataires need not apply. No, not really: I'm being unfair. They will be more than happy to accept your(paid) membership. For the rest, the buck (and the bang) stops right there.Don't hold your breath for any collective action on our behalf. First things first, and we're at the very end of the agenda.

As for me, unless the situation improves on campus I'm facing my third (or is it my forth) week of unpaid 'vacation'. Such is the enviable existence of the Vacataire-Dindon. Like it or lump it. After all, no one ever asked us to come to France and teach, did they?¨»
The will be forced to organize, I suppose – and join that Borg Collective that feed the same beast that dispossessed them. The same one that has CAUSED the high unemployment that the mall-punks are rioting over.

If they can’t convince anyone that the idiotic and medieval employment structure isn’t failed, they’ll have to resort to looking out for themselves. While the quality of what they do will contribute to the well being of society, it will be undermined and tainted by the way the whole thing is ginned up to create and maintain a fake ‘proletarian’ model which is an aristocracy, not a meritocracy, nor terribly fair in any real way.

We wish these folks the best of luck. They are similar to the self-employed, except with institutions holding their payment back and have an institutional model to help them do it.

Anyone wishing to contact the author of the newsletter author can write to him through me, and I’ll pass the messages on.

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