Salary hike for French public service health workers, exhausted by Covid battle

Nurses and health sector employees attend a demonstration to protest their working conditions in Paris in 2016.
Nurses and health sector employees attend a demonstration to protest their working conditions in Paris in 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Nearly half-a-million nurses, nursing assistants and other paramedical staff in the French public hospital system will see their salary scales boosted from 1 October next, according to the French Health Minister, Olivier Véran. The increases were agreed with the major hospital trade unions last July, and are expected to cost an additional 740 million euros every year.


The improvements will affect the salary scales of nurses, nursing assistants, health managers, technical staff, re-education specialists and child-care workers in French public hospitals.

The latest boost is in addition to the increase of 7.6 billion euros already granted to France's 1.5 million paramedical health workers across the public and private sectors.

Under the new scales, a nursing assistant in a public hospital with one year's service will receive an additional 45 euros per month, rising to an additional 468 euros for those approaching the end of their professional career.

General nursing staff will see their wage scales boosted by between 107 and 353 euros per month, depending on length of service.

Wage increases for other health workers in both the public and private sectors are due to come into effect early next year.

Unions give measures a cautious welcome

The trade unions have greeted the minister's announcement with a mixture of satisfaction and prudence.

FO-Santé said some progress was obvious, but the union would wait until it had carefully analysed the details of the minister's statement before pronouncing itself in favour or otherwise.

There was a similar guarded reaction from the CGT-Santé, with Sylvie Pons saying "we haven't seen the new salary scales, so we don't know if what we've be told is true."

A third medical trade union, Unsa-Santé, has expressed the regret that contract workers have been excluded from the latest round of increases, warning that, for example, operating theatre specialists could be expected to take "tough action" to protect their interests if they are not given a corresponding increase.

Frontline frustration

Health workers have been on the frontline of the national crisis for more than a year, with the Covid epidemic now in its third wave, and hospitals still under pressure to increase intensive care capacity.

Prime Minister Jean Castex met with health workers during a visit to Edouard Herriot hospital in Lyon on Saturday, and was confronted with a certain amount of frustration.

"We missed an opportunity to slow the epidemic down before the third wave hit," says one doctor, "we feel we weren't listened to."

"The staff are tired, and there are non-medical staff who have had to change their schedules and jobs from day to night shifts, creating problems for childcare and families," another doctor in the intensive care unit told Castex.

Another manager said that there had been more personnel off sick than during the second wave, making it difficult to cover staffing needs.

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