At Castorama, DIY, gardening and hunger strike

Five days that he camped in his vehicle: to make his condition of “poor worker” visible and to denounce low wages nibbled away by inflation, an employee of Castorama has stopped eating and sleeps in front of his store, in the suburbs of Strasbourg.

In his trunk, packs of water, grenadine syrup and a duvet. “I know I can hold on, I’m in good health, I can go far, but I’m not going to put myself in danger either,” said Xavier Gaspard, 34, salesman in the paint department and CGT delegate at Castorama on Friday. Lampertheim (Bas-Rhin).

Since March 13, the athletic young man in a black hooded sweater and white sneakers has been taking action to highlight the “growing precariousness” he and his colleagues are facing.

“I want to be able to live on my salary,” he explains, leaning on his car, denouncing the “consumer credits” that some of his colleagues have taken out to “fill their fridges or fill up with fuel”.

With 13 years of seniority, and a salary of 1,400 euros net per month, this single father of two children has returned to live with his parents since his separation. “Finding an apartment with my salary is very complicated. The rent is at least 700 euros, I am asked to earn three times that amount, it’s just impossible”.

– Locks –

Xavier Gaspard, salesman at Castorama, displays signs to demand his hunger strike in front of his store, March 17, 2023 in Lampertheim, in the Bas-Rhin (AFP – Frederick FLORIN)

Inflation, he observes it every day, in his professional activity as in his private life. “We have customers who have projects spread over time. When they see the price increase, we take remarks in the face, there are some who abandon their projects”.

He himself said to himself “stunned” to see meat trays “protected by locks” in supermarkets: “it shows that people can’t do it anymore”.

According to INSEE, food products increased by 14.8% in one year. But this average hides an even higher inflation for certain products: +24% for butter, 20% for pasta, 19% for rice or yogurts, 16% for coffee.

In the store’s car park, his signs catch the eye and often earn him the sympathy of customers.

“I completely understand. There are more and more people who are in this situation and I find it unfortunate,” says Marie-Rose, 51, an employee at a manufacturer of electrical components. “But it’s true that everything has increased. I only buy what I need, there is no longer any purchase for pleasure.”

On his fifth day of hunger strike, Friday, about fifteen of his colleagues walked off the job and left their posts to come and express their solidarity with him.

– Dipping into savings –

“Going on a hunger strike is going very far, but it’s the only way to be heard. It bothers me that we have to come to this for management to hear us,” laments Stéphane, 55. , Castorama employee for 31 years and paid 1,450 euros monthly. “Since November, I have taken a little from my savings each month to fill the hole in my bank account.”

At the end of February, eight of his colleagues had slept in the store to ask for wage increases, “but it did not move”, he regrets. “The seat gives no sign of life”.

Asked, the management of Castorama claims to have carried out a “revaluation of the salary grid by 7.3% between March 2022 and March 2023” and a “minimum general increase of €70”.

“We asked how many store employees were actually concerned, they did not want to tell us”, disputes Xavier Gaspard, who affirms on the contrary that the mandatory annual negotiations brought him an increase of only 37 euros net.

“Our group is the European leader in DIY. This year, it’s 540 million euros in dividends paid to shareholders,” he says. “The gap with the treatment of employees is huge. That has to change.”

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