France’s Force Ouvriere (FO) is ready for a national strike and rally!

Force Ouvriere workers marching on May Day this year for the defence of rights and freedoms. Health workers are now organising

FRENCH trade union federation Force Ouvriere (FO) announced on Wednesday that it is preparing a national strike and rally of private health sector workers in Paris

About twenty delegates from hospital establishments in the for-profit private sector met on June 16 in Paris, at the initiative of the national union of private health unions UNSSP-FO.

All of them testified to an unprecedented deterioration in working conditions and wages, leading to a flight of personnel.

At the end of the meeting, the UNSSP-FO launched an appeal to employees and other trade union organisations in the sector, to organise a strike with a national rally in Paris.

‘15 years ago, we had good salaries and good working conditions and we fought to come and work at home,’ says Franck Houlgatte, secretary general of the national union of private health unions (UNSSP-FO) and delegate to the Bon Sauveur de la Manche Foundation.

‘Today, people prefer to work in industry. They earn the same, they are not reminded of their rest and they are paid well on weekends.

‘They don’t have to wonder in the evening if they killed someone during the day!

‘Indeed, by the workrate imposed on them, health staff risk finding themselves in situations of patient abuse, and for these employees, it is psychologically unbearable.’

This testimony illustrates the anger of the employees of private health hospitalisation establishments, whose working conditions and wages are constantly deteriorating. Like their colleagues at the public hospital, they are exhausted.

According to Franck Houlgatte, not a week goes by without a strike being called in the sector, a situation that has lasted for several months.

Faced with the urgency of the situation, the UNSSP-FO organised, on June 16 in Paris, a national conference of delegates from clinics, hospitals and follow-up and rehabilitation care establishments (SSR), which brought together around twenty people.

Activists described an unprecedented deterioration in working conditions, a flight of staff, the closure of services and beds and a situation close to the explosion of emergency services.

They consider that the responsibility for this situation lies entirely with the government, the employers and the employers’ federation of private hospitals.

Among the grievances, they point in particular, to the limitation of access to training (nurses, doctors, etc.) resulting in a shortage of personnel and the massive reduction in the number of beds in all private and public health establishments.

Lack of staff at all levels

‘People are at the end of their tether,’ testifies Valérie, delegate at the Clinical centre of Angoulême. Sandrine works in a clinic bought by the Vivalto group.

‘We have lost 200 employees in four years. We have gone from 500 to 300 employees, and we are closing rooms every day. Surgeons are leaving because they can no longer operate, staff move according to department closures,’ she explained.

But management is making profits with as little staff as possible.’

It was through the media that Sophie, a delegate at the Anne d’Artois clinic in Béthune (Pas-de-Calais), learned of the closing of the obstetric block every weekend in June. ‘We still have no official information. I made a right of alert, we have an extraordinary CSE on June 22,’ explained the activist.

In this clinic, there is a lack of personnel at all levels. ‘Employees are called back the day before for the next day, they must be devoted body and soul to the clinic,’ she continued. ‘We have staff departures, people leave for the public hospital or change their professional orientation. If the salary followed, at least, it would balance.’

Salaries 300 euros lower than in the public sector

In the lucrative private health sector, salaries are on average 300 euros lower than those of the public hospitals. The first levels of remuneration are below the minimum wage.

‘I am a nursing assistant with 16 years of seniority and I earn 1,600 euros per month. I do not even hope to reach 1,800 euros at the end of my career,’ testified Armelle, delegate to the clinic of Anjou, in Angers. Salaries are frozen beyond thirty years of seniority.

‘The most complicated thing is to keep the employees, when they legitimately ask for salary increases,’ confirmed Éric, delegate of a psychiatric clinic in Eure.

During the NAO 2021, Valérie, from the Clinical centre in Angoulême, obtained an increase of 200 euros for nurses and 100 euros for caregivers.

Now, what does this increase represent today? ‘At the price of gasoline, this represents roughly two full tanks,’ deplored the activist.

The delegates also denounced the fact that employers now prefer to pay desocialised bonuses rather than increase wages. ‘In 2002, the salary linked to the collective agreement suited us, but twenty years later we stick our tongue out. Today with 15 years of seniority we are around the minimum wage,’ said Thierry, from the Sainte-Marie clinic in Chateaubriand. ‘We must act on wages, which are paid monthly, while a bonus is paid only once.’

Despite galloping inflation which exceeds 5% over one year, the private hospital federation (FHP) refused any general increase in salaries during the negotiation meeting of May 24, 2022.

It limited itself to proposing two category revaluations: revaluation of the night allowance from 10% to 15% and revaluation of the hardship allowance for Sundays and public holidays, from 0.4% to 0.6% of the value of the conventional level.

This is why on June 16, at the end of the conference, the UNSSP-FO launched an appeal to employees and other trade union organisations in the sector to set up a national mobilisation, with a strike and rally in Paris in front of the headquarters of the private hospital federation.

Among the demands is an increase in minimum wages to the level of the increase in the cost of living, equal salary treatment in the private and public sectors with equivalent diplomas, and the massive and immediate hiring of professionals.

The UNSSP-FO calls on the employees to meet to discuss it, define the demands and respond to the mobilisation proposal.

• ‘Legislative 2022: a setback for Macronie!’ said the CGT trade union federation on Tuesday.

The GCT noted: ‘The verdict of the second round of the legislative elections has spoken – Emmanuel Macron and Elisabeth Borne will not have an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

‘This is a first since the inversion of the presidential/legislative calendar and the transition to the five-year term. This disavowal is the scathing indictment and rejection of the anti-social policies that have been carried out for five years.

‘Before both the presidential and legislative elections, the CGT said it reaffirmed certain number of principles and values, including the fight against far-right ideas.

‘Emmanuel Macron and the LREM have been playing with our Republic for more than five years. Their programme and their ideas are in the minority. Social suffering is the daily lot of the citizens of our country.

‘The anti-social laws, the attitude to orders of the parliamentarians of the presidential majority and the lack of listening by Macron and this government, will have contributed to a very high abstention rate, particularly among young people and in working-class neighbourhoods.

‘However, a united left has allowed the emergence of a large bloc of progressive deputies in the National Assembly.

‘More than ever the world of work must put social progress on the agenda.

‘More than ever, the question of wages must find concrete answers that cannot be translated into pay curbs.

‘The general increase in wages is a priority with a minimum wage of 2,000 euros and the unfreezing of the index point.

‘Pensions and social minima must be revalued accordingly. It is a question of social and economic necessity.

‘More than ever, retirement at age 60 is a marker of a fair and united society and must be heard by the government.

‘More than ever, the world of work will have to make its voice heard and mobilise in companies and administrations, as is already the case in many places.

‘The convergences of struggles and demands must be translated into collective action. The CGT will work for the broadest possible unity.

‘The CGT will continue to make its proposals in social, economic and environmental matters. Living together cannot be decreed, it is built!’