80 employees have been on strike in front of one of the Vertbaudet warehouses, in the North, since the end of March. The social movement already peppered with violence seems to be hardening with the support provided by left-wing politicians to the strikers.

The picket has lasted for more than two months in front of the premises of the Vertbaudet company, in the North. And the tension is rising between the 80 strikers and the brand which is a benchmark in the children’s textile sector. Since March 20, angry employees have taken turns in front of the Vertbaudet warehouse in Marquette-lez-Lille, or elsewhere when they are dislodged by the police at the request of the authorities and the bosses of the company. As the struggle progressed, politicians, trade unionists and other personalities came to support the strikers. On Monday May 22, 2023, 300 of them joined the employees in front of Vertbaudet’s head office in Tourcoing for a demonstration organized by the CGT.

The trade union representing 17% of employees of the clothing company is leading the social struggle and its general secretary, Sophie Binet, took the floor to defend the interests and demands of the strikers on May 22. A position confirmed in a column published in Le Monde and signed by a hundred personalities from politics, the trade union world or the entertainment world. The striking employees of Vertbaudet also received public support from the forces of the left, the rebellious in the lead with local elected officials such as François Ruffin or Adrien Quatennens, but also other politicians like the communist Fabien Roussel. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, mentor of La France insoumise also denounced all the “police violence against workers” in this movement which he described as “exemplary”. All these supporters hope to see the social movement last despite “attempts to intimidate” the bosses of the company and the pressure of the police. “This is a symbolic struggle and we will support the strikers until they get satisfaction,” write the signatories of the platform.

The payroll of Vertbaudet and more particularly that which works in the warehouses of routing like that of Marquette-lez-Lille (North) is mainly composed of women. It is therefore, for the most part, female workers who are following the strike movement. About 80 employees out of the 400 warehouse employees have been mobilized since March 20. A social movement that aims to be a response to the agreement signed between the majority unions (FO and CFTC) and employers during the mandatory annual negotiations (NAO) which resulted in… 0% salary increase for employees already paid at the Smic, regardless of their seniority in the company.

The NAOs ruled out any increases and proposed a value sharing bonus of €650 and a €115 increase in meal bonuses. Insufficient according to the employees who bear the full brunt of inflation.

The strikers are asking for the revision of the agreement concluded during the NAO to include a salary increase of at least €150 for all employees. The hiring of temporary workers is also on the list of their demands. But the company remained deaf to the wage demands of the strikers and defended itself by anticipating a revaluation of the Smic according to Chloé Lebas, doctoral student in political science at the University of Lille, interviewed by France Culture.

If the strike movement is remarkable for its duration, it is above all the violence that was perpetrated during the demonstrations or against the strikers that caught the attention. On several occasions the mobilization of the strikers was cut short by the arrival of the police either ordered by the prefecture, or after the report issued by the company. But the violence escalated in mid-May when the security forces dislodged the picket and their passage led a striker to the hospital with four days of temporary interruption of work according to the CGT.

On May 16, the social struggle followed a striker and CGT delegate from Vertbaudet to his home. The man was assaulted outside his home by several men who identified themselves as “plainclothes police” and was “heavily gassed and beaten” according to the union’s description. Made aware of these unprecedented acts of violence, the Lille prosecutor’s office opened an investigation to find the attackers.