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France

Paris area hospital staff strike, protest reforms

Martin Hirsch says the reforms are simply a reorganisation of working hours
Martin Hirsch says the reforms are simply a reorganisation of working hours Getty Images

Thousands of hospital workers around Paris went on strike Thursday to protest proposed reforms of their working hours.

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The head of the capital's regional hospitals, Martin Hirsch, says the reforms are simply a reorganisation of working hours and do not call into question the 35-hour week for health workers.

But that has not assured hospital unions, which have all called for a strike. Thousands of protestors dressed in white coats gathered Thursday outside the headquarters of the public hospital system, near Paris's city hall.

Many doctors, who have a different status and are unaffected by the reform, marched in solidarity with hospital staff.

The changes, meant to save 20 million euros, would affect 75,000 staff in 38 hospitals.

Hospital employees opposed to the plan say the change to their hours would entitle them to fewer rest days, which they say would lead to burn-out. Doctors, meanwhile, are concerned that a reorganisation could mean that they would have less assistance from medical staff.

Currently, more than 60 per cent of staff are working between 38 and 39 hours per week, earning 18 to 20 rest days per year. Due to a lack of personnel, staff are not able to take the days off and instead accumulate them in savings accounts, which were valued at a total of 74.7 million euros at the end of 2014, according to management.

Reducing daily time slots to seven and a half hours or less would mitigate these costs, Hirsch says.

The protests come a day after the government officially published its intent to go ahead with controversial education reforms, despite teachers’ strikes and protests held across the country on Tuesday.

Unions say the changes proposed for middle schools, which include limiting teaching of Latin and ancient Greek, would only serve to increase inequalities and class separation.

French newspaper Liberation reported in March that 3 billion euros would be shaved from France’s hospital budget by 2017, suggesting that as many as 22,000 jobs could be lost.

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