• France's news in English

35-hour week leaves Paris hospitals in a spin

Ben McPartland · 21 May 2015, 16:59

Published: 21 May 2015 16:59 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Hospitals across Paris were hit by a strike on Wednesday as up to 8,000 staff protested against plans to reorganise their working week.

Their gripe is against Martin Hirsch, who heads the APHP which groups together Paris’s 38 public hospitals.

Under pressure to make savings on payroll costs Hirsch wants to reorganise the working week but he has come up against an old problem – the 35-hour working week.

The story goes that as an advisor to France’s Socialist government that brought in the reform, he was promised by then Labour Minister Martine Aubry that hospitals would be exempt from the 35-hour week.

But that promise was never kept and now Hirsch is facing the seemingly impossible task of trying to renegotiate hospital rotas while not touching the sacred 35-hour week.

His aim is to reduce the amount of extra time off staff build up due to the knock-on effects of the 35-day week.

Hospital staff, like most workers in France work on average between 38 and 39 hours a week but they are compensated by doing “overtime” by being giving extra days off known as RTT days.

On average the extra hours worked each week earn them between 18 and 20 extra days off each year.

READ ALSO: French hospital crisis 'just like Thatcher's NHS'

French hospital crisis: 'Just like Thatcher's NHS'

The problem for hospital chiefs is that staff shortages mean workers are not able to take all these extra days off and instead accumulate them in savings accounts.

These have been valued by hospital managers to be worth around €75 million – all at a time when the hospitals are being forced to make cuts.

Hirsch recognises that these days need to be cut but the problem he faces is that hospital staff have understandably grown quite accustomed to the benefits of that 35-hour week.

But he insisted that the changes “will not see the end of the 35-hour week in hospitals or the end of RTT days” and that a reorganisation is essential to save jobs.

Hirsh suggests reducing daily time slots to seven or seven and a half hours would help reduce costs and number of RTT days.

They claim that if they lost these rest days they would face burnout at a time when they are already stretched to their limit. Unions also fear workers will be pushed too hard doing those shifts and they may lose their 30-minute lunch break.

Story continues below…

The motto of Thursday’s strike was “Maintain rest, guarantee quality of care”. One banner at the protest near the Paris Town Hall read: "We're not superheroes, we just need a rest".

Hirsch’s problem is that the French government has ordered hospitals to make €3 billion in savings over the next two years including €860 million off the wage bill.

And things may yet get worse with Health Minister Marisol Touraine saying that over the next two years 22,000 jobs will not be filled once those in the roles retire or quit.

Hirsch will begin negotiations at the end of the month.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available