AS THEY launched a general strike last Thursday the giant CGT French trades union federation demanded the government of Emmanuel Macron extend a ban on eviction of rental tenants to beyond June 1st.
The Minister in charge of Housing, Emmanuelle Wargon, announced the postponement to June 1st of the end of the winter break normally set for March 31.
According to a new 26-page report from the housing charity the Abbé Pierre Foundation, 12.1 million, or 1-in-5 French people, are today ‘weakened’ in terms of housing (overcrowding, fuel poverty, etc.)
Among them, 1.2 million tenants are unable to pay their rent or their charges, thus exposing themselves to a rental eviction procedure.
In a context where economic projections for 2021 already predict the loss of 800,000 jobs and unemployment up to 11%, the CGT ‘would have welcomed a more courageous measure’ in the teeth of this social emergency, by putting an end to all rental evictions and a moratorium on rents and overdrafts, by clearing debts for all tenants and buyers in difficulty.
Indeed, 13,000 evictions – with the assistance of the police – were scheduled in 2020 alone.
The postponement of the end of the winter break will have spared the majority of the households concerned, but 3,500 evictions have still been authorised.
At present, it is estimated that 30,000 cases are pending, twice the annual average. What will happen to them on June 1st without the implementation by then of a real housing policy?
Also, in order to slow down the exponential growth of unpaid rents, the CGT requires the government to:
- Withdraw the reform of personal housing assistance (APL) as well as their ‘revaluation’ – a reform whose main objective is to achieve savings at the expense of the poorest households;
- Restrict implementation across the entire territory of the regulation of downward rents.
In order to permanently reduce poor housing and finally make the right to decent housing real for all, the CGT calls on the government to implement an ambitious policy of building social housing. In 2019, 2.16 million households were still waiting for social housing.
On February 2nd, Housing Minister Wargon publicly committed that the SRU property buyer protection law will be extended after 2025 and that 250,000 social housing units will be built over the next two years, while the need is 500,000 housing per year.
But, for the CGT, these commitments only make sense if they are part of a sustainable public funding plan for housing.
This supposes, first, that the government stops using the main tools of housing policy such as, for example, Action Logement (1.3 billion euros in 2021) or social landlords with the establishment of the ‘reduction in solidarity rent’ (RLS), also amounting to 1.3 billion euros.
These two levies jeopardise access to housing for workers as well as investments, renovations and maintenance of social housing.
All these successive savings made in public spending on housing have never been reinvested in housing.
On the contrary, since 2019, the State Credits intended for the National Fund for Stone Aid (FNAP) are at zero!
As for the recovery plan of 100 billion euros, it confirms the withdrawal of the State in terms of access and the right to housing by allocating only 650 million euros to construction (350 million euros to local elected officials intended to encourage them to grant more permits and a fund of 300 million euros to finance the conversion of brownfields) and 500 million euros in aid for renovation for social landlords.
Therefore, for the CGT, without a radical change of direction for public policy of ambitious and fair housing, 1st June will see an explosion in the number of evictions and increased impoverishment of workers.
In a separate statement last Friday, the CGT urged a strengthening of social security for better early childhood care.
Early childhood professionals have been mobilised against the draft ordinance resulting from the ASAP law which plans to transform standards for the reception of young children to the detriment of the quality and working conditions of staff. This project is also a new attack on Social Security and its family branch.
If the objective of the government is ‘to create, without delay, additional nursery places’, the draft order concerning young children at the reception stage goes much further.
Planned within the framework of the law for the acceleration and simplification of public action (ASAP) passed on December 7th, this reform plans to fundamentally modify early childhood policy in France and to transform the ways in which it works.
It rationalises the reception methods for toddlers to the detriment of quality, say the unions.
The first version of the draft ordinance notably provides for modifying the supervision rate or even increasing numbers in nurseries.
These proposals rightly enrage staff, mainly women, who suffer from a lack of professional recognition and a deterioration in their working conditions.
This deregulation of reception methods for the very young to the detriment of quality and against the recommendations of many professionals is above all an encouragement to privatise the early childhood sector.
In addition to renouncing the safety and quality of childcare arrangements for young children, the project destroys the entire organisation of early childhood family policy. Thus, workers’ representatives would be excluded from regulatory bodies for family services.
In addition, under the guise of ‘facilitating the establishment, maintenance and development of services for families, in particular in terms of childcare and parenting support’, the government plans to open a single administrative window in transferring new powers to family allowance funds.
This transfer would take place without additional human resources or training for the workers responsible for these changes.
For several decades, governments have abandoned policies that met the social needs of children and families.
The unions warn that by promoting the lucrative private sector and by destroying the organisation of the sector, this new reform is part of this process of dismantling the emancipatory principles of family policy implemented after the Second World War through the family branch of Social Security.
In addition to this process of permanent search for spending cuts, the burden of family policy is passed on to households to reduce costs to businesses while opening up new areas of profit to them.
It is to stop the government manoeuvres that the CGT has launched a campaign for the reconquest of Social Security.
Contrary to government ambitions, family policies, backed by Social Security, must promote reconciliation between professional and parental life, but also support the development of the child and prevent risks. Favouring high-level family policies is an investment for the future.
Also, for the CGT, taking charge of children’s education should be considered a public good financed by companies, and places of wealth creation.
- Last Friday, Frédéric Valletoux, president of the Federation of French Hospitals (FHF) called for a new nationwide lockdown as a Paris hospital executive warned that hospitals hardest hit by Covid-19 will need to delay some other procedures.
In the latest sign of tensions between the government and health officials over measures to handle the pandemic, Valletoux, who is also mayor of Fontainebleau just south of Paris, said that while the situation in hospitals is under control for now, it remains ‘very tense’ in many areas.
This came as Bruno Riou, head of the Paris AP-HP hospitals crisis team, also on Friday warned that hospitals and intensive care units hardest-hit by Covid-19 will need to start delaying some other procedures.
This was just a day after Prime Minister Jean Castex said the Covid-19 situation in France was ‘fragile’ but did not justify a new lockdown at present.
Castex said the rate of infection had not significantly increased over the past two weeks, even if the pressure on French hospitals remained strong.
The PM told a news conference: ‘We must stick with the current restrictions we already have in place.’
He added: ‘But the situation today does not justify a new national lockdown.’
His words went against views voiced by several leading French medics.
Karine Lacombe, head of infectious diseases at Saint Antoine hospital in Paris, said new measures to curb the spread of infections are ‘inevitable’. ‘We’re still at a high plateau in France. And to bring it down, new restrictive measures will be inevitable,’ she told France Inter radio.
The Macron government imposed two nationwide lockdowns last year and currently has one of the world’s most restrictive curfews, stretching from 6pm to 6am.
In his news conference last Thursday, Castex said the country’s progressive tightening of restrictions had allowed it to keep the economy more open than some neighbours had been able to.
But he warned there could be no let-up and called on companies to enforce more remote working from home.
He told reporters: ‘Working from home is imperative whenever possible.’
He also announced a three-week lockdown for the French island of Mayotte, located off the coast of Mozambique, which has been hit by the South African variant of the virus.
‘It is not the time to ease up now,’ Castex insisted, adding that he would not hesitate to tighten curbs on free movement if there was a spike in infections.
The prime minister also touched on the sensitive issue of France’s vaccination drive, which has been widely criticised for its slow pace.
He said the first doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine would arrive in France by the end of the week, helping the government reach a target of four million inoculations by the end of the month.
President Macron has promised to offer a vaccine to all adults in France by the end of the summer.