Covid-19 in France

French medical lab workers on Covid frontline strike for extra pay, recognition

Lab technicians on strike (illustration).
Lab technicians on strike (illustration). REUTERS - Anton Vaganov

Exhausted after over a year of additional effort provoked by the Covid epidemic, French medical laboratory technicians are on strike today, demanding salary increases and greater public recognition of their crucial role in the fight against disease.  

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The strike involves technicians in medical laboratories in both the private and public sectors.

Pointing out that the vast majority of modern medical diagnoses are made on the basis of laboratory analyses, a spokesman for one of the organising trade unions says the profession is virtually, and unjustly, invisible.

The unions claim that 70 percent of medical decisions made in French hospitals are based on their work.

"We are asking for a salary 1.8 times the basic minimum wage for those starting their careers," the CGT union continues, "3.6 times the minimum for those ending their careers."

The official minimum wage in France is currently 1,555 euros per month, before deductions.

'We want to be visible'

Deploring a build-up of fatigue among lab personnel over recent years, Etienne Leclercq of the CGT union says "we would finally like to be visible, have a chance to point out the crazy situation under which we have worked since the start of the health crisis".

There has been a notable increase in the number of work-related accidents and cases of professional burn-out since the beginning of the Covid epidemic, Leclercq claims.

The average workload of laboratory technicians is estimlated to have grown by 50 percent over the past year, according to trade union sources. The vast majority have been offered wage increases of 1.5 percent, the equivalent of 15 to 30 euros per month.

Call for the removal of the 15-year ceiling

Laboratory workers lament the fact that they were not among the professional categories recognised as deserving salary increases in the wake of the government's recent national round-table on the health sector.

Among the demands being made by this week's strikers is the removal of the current 15-year ceiling for length-of-service bonuses.

According to Thierry Michelland of the CGT, "currently, you get an automatic increase every three years. But once you get to 15 years service, it's over. You have no chance of any further rise."

Several public meetings have been organised for striking workers, notably outside the offices of regional health agencies and some large private laboratories.

The strikers have promised that their action will have no impact on the completion of urgently required analyses.

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