Socialist Worker

Struggle wins pay rise from Macron, but health workers in France protest for more

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2714

Health workers protested across France on Bastille Day

Health workers protested across France on Bastille Day (Pic: CGT Sante Action Sociale)


Mass demonstrations, strikes and consistent campaigning have forced the French government to give a pay rise to health workers.

But many workers are angry that the amount is too small, and that other crucial improvements have been largely ignored.

Pay will rise by 183 euros (£166) a month on average. But the increase comes in two lumps.

One nursing union said, “Health workers will not get a cent this year. There is nothing extra on salaries before February 2021. We want 300 euros more a month now, not 90 euros retroactively, one year after Covid-19.”

The government has promised £7 billion extra for health. But that is nothing compared to the billions of pounds that are being showered on big business.

President Emmanuel Macron’s administration handed £10 billion to just two companies—Renault and Air France.

They went on to lay off tens of thousands of workers. Three union federations, representing the majority of health workers, have signed up to the deal. Two have rejected it.

Mireille Stivala, general secretary of the CGT health union, said the proposed rise would not bring health workers to the European average and was “disappointing”.

She also stressed that without a battle, there would have been less.

Thierry Amouroux, a spokesperson for the SNPI union, likened the measures to “treating gangrene with a plaster”.

On 14 July—which commemorates the storming of the Bastille during the 1789 French Revolution—the government held a hypocritical “thank you” procession for health workers.

During the parade a large banner carried by a cluster of helium balloons came wafting over the proceedings, eluding the police barriers that cordoned off the area. It read, “Behind the tributes, Macron is suffocating French hospitals.”

Demands

On the same day many thousands of health workers demonstrated in cities across France. They repeated their demands for a 300 euro rise now, an end to closures and cuts, and a real injection of funds for health.

In Paris the protest was met with tear gas. “The government did not live up to our demands,” Paule Bensaid, a nurse from the northern city of Lille, told the AFP news agency. “Where I work, we were left without masks for weeks. So to have us parade on the Champs-Elysees now, I think that’s bullshit.”

As Macron tries to restart big business profits, he faces continuing opposition.

Around 10,000 people joined a militant anti-racist demonstration in Beaumont-sur-Oise near to Paris last Saturday. It remembered Adama Traore, who was killed by police on his 24th birthday in July 2016. The protest brought together groups of mainly young, black, anti-racists in the “Generation Adama” movement and “Generation Climate” activists.

A popular banner read, “Generation Adama plus Generation Climate equals Generation Revolution.”

One activist told the rally, “We want to breathe, breathe and not be killed by cops, and breathe not be stifled by pollution and a world where human life is extinguished.”

Assa Traore, a leading campaigner and Adama’s sister, called for a mass demonstration to demand the resignation of the judge in charge of the case.

The judge has refused to hear new evidence of how the police acted.

Assa said, “The Adama committee has always fought social and racial discrimination.

“Our fight takes place alongside the struggles of cleaners, the undocumented, the Yellow Vests and today we’re all on the same side and we have to overthrow the system that oppresses us all.”

Several union federations have called for a national day of strikes and protests on Thursday 17 September against Macron's renewed attacks on pensions, jobs and pay.


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