Socialist Worker

Health workers in France lead challenge to Macron

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2705

A poster against the reopening of schools

A poster against the reopening of schools (Pic: Phototheque Rouge)


Moves to end the lockdown in France are releasing suppressed bitterness and anger against president Emmanuel Macron.

Protests and strikes are beginning again, particularly among health workers.

Cleaners, nurses and doctors faced off with Macron at a leading Paris hospital last Friday. They were demanding better pay and a fundamental redesign of the public health system that found itself quickly overwhelmed by tens of thousands of virus patients.

“We are desperate. We no longer believe in you,” said one nurse who confronted Macron at the Pitie‑Salpetriere hospital. She said she was using a surgical mask that had long expired.

Anticipating such a reaction, the president’s office didn’t allow a single video, photo or radio reporter on the visit.

Around 300 health workers joined a protest at a hospital in Saint-Etienne last week.

Management has tried to push through staff reorganisations and bed closures during the pandemic.

In Bordeaux the SUD health union has called an “unlimited” strike from Thursday of this week at the main hospital over pay and staffing.

Hundreds of health workers joined a demonstration at Robert Debre hospital in Paris last week. They demanded no return to the conditions that existed before the pandemic.

The government has said it will pay bonuses of 500-1,500 euros to all health workers.

It also promised a special “medal of commitment” to all those on the Covid-19 front line.

Token

But workers have warned they will not settle for token measures. Hospitals “don’t need medals, they need funding,” said the campaign group Collectif inter-hôpitaux last week.

Meanwhile the return to school is patchy with many parents not sending their children and ­teachers putting up guerrilla opposition.

Some are striking, others are using their “right to withdrawal” on health grounds.

Several schools that reopened last week have been forced to close due to suspected cases of Covid-19 among workers.

Supermarket workers at Auchan in Fontenay-sous-Bois in the ­eastern suburbs of Paris are on strike. Bosses announced a bonus, but not everyone will receive it.

Yellow Vest protests, stalled by the virus, are beginning again with some roundabout occupations and city centre gatherings.

And in another sign of ­possible battles to come, young people fought police on Sunday night and Monday morning in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil. The battles followed the death of 18 year old Sabri Choubi after a collision with a police car.

Videos posted on social media showed teams of CRS riot police moving into housing estates. Residents let off fireworks and set bins on fire as the police attacked with tear gas.

Around 800 bus and tram drivers in Brussels, Belgium, struck for the whole of last week against the lifting of lockdown health measures—agreed by their union and management—on public transport.


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