Marketable People

Duration:     90 Minutes

Authors:      Herdolor Lorenz,  Regie: Leslie Franke

 Europe is experiencing radical change. Since the new millennium and after the financial crisis a new course has been set. Solidarity systems within society, which have been hard fought for since decades, are being questioned. In particular the  the human beings within the labour market  are changing rapidly. This is where the film „Marketable People” is positioned.

  „Worker-entrepreneurs“ instead of workers safety.   Labour unions and young citizens in France are fighting massively against the planned deregulation of the labour market. Reforms which were introduced some 20 years ago in Germany as part of the agenda 2010 without any appreciable resistance. In those days about two thirds of the employees in Germany had full time employment with social security. Today that figure is just 38% . At the moment just under half of all employees are working without social security.  They are working in internships, repeated temporary work in work contracts and temporary employment through agencies. In fact even the totally unsecured jobs as „crowd workers“ (Internet-workers) and the „Gig-economy“ (work-contracts and temporary employment via Apps) are spreading fast. These Jobs function „fee-based“ and are usually won by the lowest priced offer:  A lector checks a book by a well known publishing house for a wage of 7.90 € per hour. That is not the minimum wage but the person is working freely and decides the price himself/herself. A press photographer receives 40 € for a published picture. However brightly the apples on the MacBooks might shine – in the bank accounts darkness reigns. Even professors are now employed as freelancers. On Internet platforms such as MyHammer craftsmen offer their services. Here only that person gets to work who offers to work for the lowest hourly wage for example 5.80€ . Corporations such as Audi, Telekom, Henkel, Deutsche Bank or Coca Cola, but even NGOs such as Greenpeace are moving their work out to crowd platforms.  The worst example is the crowd platform  Jovoto, where only the work which is chosen from multiple designs is paid for. Social insurance must be paid by each individual himself  as in a microentrepeneur world. The consequences for society and community solidarity are foreseeable. The prognosis of social scientists is for example  an increase of poverty in old age. A re-regulation in the area of low paid  and insecure work is more necessary than ever. At the ministry for Work Andrea Nahes however „sees no reason to dramatize the phenomenon of crowd working“. And the EU commission too maintains in its usual neo-liberal manner  that a lower level of regulation is no hindrance but much rather an incentive to add value.

 How could it come to this development?         

Labour disputes have since the beginning of industrialization fought for and created the standards for labour law which were fundamental for the social market economy. Since the 1980s The neoliberal ideas of a lean state and a global market without borders were first introduced into the US and England. In Germany these policies were taken over by the red-green government of Schröder/Fischer. Through the reduction of corporate taxes and the deregulation of work they managed to provide German companies enormous sustained cost advantages.  Simultaneously real income sank between the years 2000 and 2010 on average by 4.2 percent. Employees in the lower half of the income pyramid had to cope with a reduction in real wages of up to 23.1 percent.  Heiner Flassbeck, secretary in the ministry of  Finance from 1998 to 1999 points out that this reduction of labour costs as a unilateral German measure had catastrophic consequences for the newly created Euro -currency block. Originally a synchronized development of the economies and social policies within the Euro block had been agreed upon.  If I invite my friend (France) to sign a treaty with me, and the moment he is at the same level as I am I kick him in the shin or prevent him in some other way to run along with me and work with me, that is cheating.

  Nuit Debout  - the night of the righteous

 France's state president François Hollande  is proclaiming all over he wants to be like Gerhard Schröder. The many strikes and demonstrations  cannot  impress him. A president with these goals muss remain strong. France is the only country where the 35 hour week is still the rule. It cannot be so difficult to understand that with such stringent rules for the working hours French companies just cannot compete. That is why we must – whether we like it or not – make working hours more flexible.

 The changes in the labour laws however are aimed in particular at regulating the wages and working hours directly at the shop floor level. That would lead to longer working hours and reductions in the barriers to protection against dismissal. The French labour unions know that they then have no leverage against the pressure on the employees at the shop floor level at individual companies. That is the reason for the  vigorous resistance of the labour unions particularly the CGT.

  Since the 31st of March 2016 young people are protesting in the Place de la République against the now planned deregulation of labour laws. The student of  philosophy  Paolo Sandoz says: “ François Hollande had in no way promised to deregulate labour laws and get rid of the 35-hour week. On the contrary he had promised to tax the rich and punish those companies which leave their shop floors empty and transfer their production abroad. The minister for industries Arnaud Montebourg had perhaps tried to do that. But when the raing agencies cut down France's rating and corporations like Unilever openly threatened to withdraw their capital from France he was let down by his own government. In the mean time François Hollande has come around to doing the opposite of what he had promised his voters. It is almost irrelevant with which program someone is voted into office.” Some days later Arnaud Montebourg,  the ex minister of Industries of France himself speaks at the square: “These polices of reducing labour costs by deregulating the labour laws reduces the demand at home and increases the profitability of export oriented corporations. All countries which do that wish to be the world export champions like Germany. But that will never work. Every country with an export surplus needs other countries with a deficit in their economy. That is why this is always an egoistic policy to the detriment of other countries who are further indebted due to their trade deficits. The export champions only increase the gulf between the winning and the losing nations”.

  „How to escape the logic of competition“ is a central them of the permanent discussions at the  Place de la République “ I don't want to lose my life by always having to belong to the winners” explains  Paolo Sandoz, the student of philosophy. It is actually not understandable why people are always more and more stressed. Production is continuously becoming more effective.  The same product or perhaps an even better one is being produced with less effort and in an ever shorter time. It would be logical to assume that  every employee should work shorter hours for the same salary – or in the case of a better product a higher salary!

  The 35 hour week

 Older Germans would know this argument. This is approximately the same argument that the German labour unions used in the 80s during their struggle for the 35 hour working week. Archival footage shows:  “Fewer and fewer people will be required. Consumption cannot be expanded as much as is necessary to compensate for the permanent increases in effectiveness. That is why we must strive for a reduction in working hours at constant wages.” In Germany the labour unions however forgot this struggle as their comrades along with the greens were voted into central government and as they were then the first in the EU to deregulate work.

  Since the financial crisis the neighboring countries are supposed to follow the so called German „model of success“. „We have delivered“ is what the politicians in charge in Greece, Italy ,Spain and Portugal say. But the deregulation of their respective labour markets has not till now reduced the unemployment in any of these countries. On the contrary: Almost all people in Europe are losing in social security and are being sent into a competitive fight which encompasses ever more areas of life and pushes many to the sidelines. The film asks also about the cost of treating and reintegrating those who do not make it and have supposedly “only themselves to blame”.

  The film „Marketble People“ discusses different concepts of how to counteract this development, how to cushion the social outcomes and also how to avoid the issue at an individual level. It is a film which opposes individualization and speaks for solidarity. Because it is time to get involved.