Major French union threatens strikes during Olympics. Hospital workers could walk off the job

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FILE - The Olympic rings are set up at Trocadero plaza that overlooks the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sept. 14, 2017. A major French union is warning of possible strikes in the public sector, including at hospitals, during the Paris Olympics. The general secretary of the CGT tells France Info media that the union will give notice of a possible strike in public services during the Games, which are held in July-August. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

A major French union warned of possible strikes, including at hospitals, during the Paris Olympics, when a massive influx of people is in the French capital.

Speaking to France Info media on Thursday, the general secretary of the CGT said the union will give a notice of strike in public services during the Games, which are held in July-August. The Paralympics take place in August-September.

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Paris' tourism office predicts up to 15.9 million people could visit the Paris region during July-September.

“We want the government to take immediate action to ensure the success of the Games,” Sophie Binet said. “For this to happen, our warnings must be heeded and the Games must be prepared from a social point of view. We’ve been saying the same thing for months now, and no one cares. It’s getting very tiresome.”

The social situation in France remains tense, amid protests from teachers, police officers and farmers in recent weeks that followed huge demonstrations last year against the rise in retirement age. Binet said thousands of workers will be impacted by the hosting of the Games, forced to work longer hours and postpone their holidays.

“What are the social conditions of this work?" Binet posed. "How are we going to accommodate all the workers who will have to come to (the Paris region) for the Olympics? How are we going to take care of their children when they’re the ones who have to work? What kind of bonuses will they get?”

Paris Olympics organizing head Tony Estanguet said last month he hopes trade unions will not “ruin the party” by calling strikes during the Games. Disruptions are, however, already expected in the transportation network since the CGT announced a seven-month strike notice over pay issues at transport operator RATP from Feb. 5-Sept. 9.

In reaction to protests, the government agreed this year that police officers deployed during the Olympics will receive bonuses of up to 1,900 euros ($2,050).

Asked specifically about the strikes in hospitals, Binet said it's urgent for the government to inject more funding into those located in the Paris region if France wants to be able to deal with the influx of visitors.

“The state of hospitals is catastrophic,” she said. “We are very, very, very worried about how it will be this summer. It won't be possible to blackmail staff once again by asking them to work more overtime and call into question their paid leave. They are exhausted, and can’t take it anymore. We need a recruitment plan."

French health workers have for years demanded more hiring and better salaries in public hospitals. Years of cost cuts left medics submerged when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.


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