Socialist Worker

Health workers march in France and cops raid ministers’ homes

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2727

Health workers in Paris took to the streets against poor working conditions

Health workers in Paris took to the streets against poor working conditions (Pic: Revolution Permanente/Twitter)


Health workers across France organised protests on Thursday against conditions that have left them on the brink of collapse.

They held rallies and marches to denounce atrocious working conditions and staff shortages that have left them exhausted and demoralised.

Marchers in many of the major cities called for an end to hospital closures, more staff for hospitals and nursing homes, and better pay.

In Nice on the Mediterranean coast protesters carried a banner saying, “Hire more. Train more. We’re exhausted.”

In Vaucluse in southern France, demonstrator Sandrine told France Bleu newspaper, “Before we were the heroes, today we are the forgotten ones. None of us have received the bonus we were promised.”

“I did not sign up for this,” Sophie, a nurse in Lyon, said. “We just can’t go on with the pressure and the extra unpaid hours.”

Christina told Le Parisien newspaper, “Among ourselves, we call each other the invisibles.”

In most places the marches were smaller than on previous days of action. This is partly because of the intense pressure as coronavirus cases soar. The government also has the right to requisition health workers and deny them leave.

In July mass demonstrations, strikes and consistent campaigning forced the government to give a pay rise to health workers.

But many workers were angry that the amount conceded was too small, and that other crucial improvements were largely ignored.

This feeling has deepened.

One A&E technician in Avignon told Socialist Worker, “We only just made it through the first wave, and there were points when we were choosing who would live and who would die.

“Now the second wave hits and it feels as if we have learned nothing.”

There is a sense of deepening social crisis.

Announced

President Emmanuel Macron has announced a curfew in Paris and eight other cities from Saturday.

The shutdown between 9pm and 6am will remain in force for as long as six weeks and cover 20 million people.

It will undoubtedly lead to more of the crackdowns on working class people—especially black people—that was seen during the first lockdown.

Macron knows there is deep anger in society. He has been forced to make gestures towards a reckoning with the government’s failure to deal with the virus.

Police searched the homes of health minister Olivier Veran, former prime minister Edouard Philippe and other officials on Thursday. The move was part of an inquiry into the government's handling of coronavirus.

Veran is one of several current or former ministers under investigation over their response to the coronavirus pandemic. The investigation follows complaints by victims of Covid-19 that they were too slow to act.

Prime Minister Jean Castex is also a subject of the investigation, as is Veran's predecessor at the health ministry, Agnes Buzyn. The home of Sibeth Ndiaye, a former government spokesperson, was also searched.

It would be like Boris Johnson sending in the cops to search the homes of Matt Hancock, Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May and Dominic Cummings.

Of course it may lead to no action or genuine accountability. Or it may be a move by Macron to find a scapegoat for his own failures.

Macron also backs the big firms that have snaffled government handouts but are now making mass redundancies.

A high-profile battle over jobs has begun at the Grandpuits oil refinery near Paris.

Bosses at Total have said it will close with the loss of 700 jobs. Workers at the plant, who have a long history of militancy, held a one-day strike on Tuesday to kick off resistance.

They barricaded roads around the site and halted shipments.

These are the sorts of struggles that are desperately needed


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