Five days camping in his vehicle: To expose his “poor worker” condition and denounce the low wages eaten away by inflation, a Castorama employee has stopped eating and sleeps in front of his shop , in the suburbs of Strasbourg.
In his trunk are water, grenadine syrup and a comforter. “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, a paint department salesman and CGT delegate at Castorama on Friday Lampertheim ( Bas Rhin).
Since March 13, the athletic young man in a black hoodie and white sneakers has been taking action to highlight the “increasing uncertainty” he and his colleagues face.
“I want to be able to live on my salary,” he explains, leaning on his car, denouncing the “consumption credits” that some of his colleagues have taken out to “fill or fuel their refrigerators.”
With 13 years of seniority and a salary of 1,400 euros net per month, this single father of two has moved back in with his parents since his divorce. “Finding an apartment with my salary is very complicated. The rent is at least 700 euros, they are asked to earn three times as much, that is just not possible”.
– Locks –
Inflation, he observes it every day, both in his professional activity and in his private life. “We have customers who have staggered projects over time. When they see the price increase, we take comments to the face, there are those who give up on their projects”.
He himself said to himself “stupid” to see meat boxes “protected by locks” in supermarkets: “it shows that people can’t do it anymore”.
According to INSEE, food products are up 14.8% in one year. But this average hides even higher inflation for certain products: +24% for butter, 20% for pasta, 19% for rice or yoghurt, 16% for coffee.
In the store’s parking lot, his signs catch the eye and often win the sympathy of customers.
“I totally understand. There are more and more people who find themselves in this situation and I’m sorry,” said 51-year-old Marie-Rose, an employee at a manufacturer of electrical components. “But it is true that everything has increased. I buy only what I need, there is no longer a purchase for pleasure.”
On his fifth day of hunger strike, Friday, about fifteen of his colleagues left their jobs and posts to come and show their solidarity with him.
– Dive into savings –
“Going on a hunger strike goes a long way, but it’s the only way to be heard. It bothers me that we have to come here before the management can hear us,” complains Stéphane, 55. , Castorama employee since 31 years and paid 1,450 euros per month. “Since November, I’ve been taking some of my savings every month to fill the gap in my bank account.”
By the end of February, eight of his colleagues had slept in the store asking for pay raises, “but it didn’t take off,” he regrets. “The chair gives no sign of life”.
When asked, Castorama’s management claims to have carried out a “7.3% revaluation of the salary schedule between March 2022 and March 2023” and a “minimum overall increase of €70”.
“We asked how many store employees it actually involved, they didn’t want to tell us,” disputes Xavier Gaspard, who, on the other hand, confirms that the mandatory annual negotiations only netted him 37 euros.
“Our group is the European leader in DIY stores. This year EUR 540 million in dividends will be paid to shareholders,” he says. “The gap in the treatment of employees is huge. That has to change.”