Doctors in France step up strike action

GPs in France dug their heels in on Monday as they continued their strike in protest at government health reforms. The head of the main union told The Local why doctors are hardening their stance.

Doctors in France step up strike action

Even with seasonal outbreaks of flu and gastroenteritis doing the rounds, French doctors decided to step up their strike action on Monday.

After two weeks of industrial action in protest against planned government health reforms, family doctors (GPs) turned up the heat on Monday by promising to create a bureaucratic mess for health authorities and insurance companies.

GPs could refuse to accept patients “cartes vitale” which are used to process reimbursements of the costs of a consultation automatically and instead make them fill in forms by hand that will inevitably clog up the system and lead to patients waiting up to two months to be paid.

The planned change that has provoked the ire of the doctors is the reform to the system of payment which will see an end to patients handing over cash up front for an appointment. Instead doctors will be reimbursed directly by insurance companies, whether public or private.

Jean-Paul Ortiz from the Confederation of French Medical Unions (CSMF), the main union behind the protests, told The Local the change is “unacceptable” for those in his profession.

“Both doctors and patients in France will lose their liberty and independence. We will be dictated to by insurance companies and depend on them for our salaries," he said.

“We will be forced to spend hours checking all the reimbursements which are normally full of errors. Most doctors don’t have secretaries and we just don’t have the time to do it,” he said.

Doctors have carried out their own reports in France to highlight how dysfunctional and slow insurance companies can be to forward payments to doctors.

Bertrand Legrand a GP in Tourcoing in northern France told BFM TV that in one case a doctor had to wait 980 days before being reimbursed.

“It’s an unbelievable delay,” he said.

As a solution Ortiz’s confederation is proposing a system whereby patients pay doctors with their bank cards up front, but the money would not be debited until they are refunded by the social security.

“This system is already in place in some areas and the cost of implementing it is minimal,” Ortiz said.

Despite the apparent bad timing of the strike, coming over festive season, the French public appear to be backing their doctors.

According to an opinion poll on Sunday 58 percent of French people support the strike.

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French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.