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STRIKES

‘There is a crisis’: Hundreds of hospitals in France hit by strike action

A total of 213 hospital emergency rooms have been hit by strike action in what France's health minister has admitted is a "crisis".

'There is a crisis': Hundreds of hospitals in France hit by strike action
Photo: AFP

Staff at emergency hospital facilities across France have been staging industrial actions since mid March in protest at their working conditions and pay, but in recent weeks the movement has ramped up and now 213 facilities are affected by the action.

Health minister Agnes Buzyn accepted that “there is a crisis” when she visited a hospital in Verneuil-sur-Seine in Yvelines on Thursday.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED Why are French hospital emergency room workers on strike


Staff have been wearing stickers declaring that they are on strike. Photo AFP

Staff – backed by three of France's biggest unions – are protesting over what they say are intolerable working conditions in A&E that are putting the safety of patients at risk.

A statement by the union Inter-Urgencies on July 31st pointed to the “absolute need to stop bed closures” as one of the main demands of the strikers.

They are also demanding an extra 10,000 staff for France's emergency departments and a €300 wage increase.

In an attempt to calm the anger of hospital staff, Agnès Buzyn had previously promised €70 million of aid, including €55 million dedicated to the payment of a monthly risk premium of €100 for staff, but unions say they have seen none of this.

A demonstration on Bordeaux. Photo: AFP

There are strict rules around strikes by emergency staff in France, and police can even be called in if staff do not show up to work.

This has meant that at first strike action was limited to protests outside hospital entrances, and staff wearing badges to declare themselves 'on strike'.

However in recent weeks as anger has mounted staff have been increasingly calling in sick or not volunteering for overtime or extra shifts.

There have also been several symbolic five-minute walk-outs from departments while several cities have seen marches and demonstrations from medical staff.

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STRIKES

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.

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