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France, worried about Olympics strikes, will pay government workers more

France, worried about Olympics strikes, will pay government workers more

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

France will offer government employees who work during this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games bonuses and other incentives in a bid to avoid strikes that could disrupt the global sporting event.

Stanislas Guerini, the French minister for transformation and public services, made the announcement Saturday in an interview with France Info. He said eligible government employees will get bonuses of up to 1,500 euros ($1,640) for their work during the Summer Olympics — which will be held across France and its overseas territories from July 26 to Aug. 11 — and Paralympic Games, which take places between Aug. 28 and Sept. 8.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are set to become the “biggest event ever organized in France,” according to their official website, and the government has leaned heavily on them as part of its messaging: In his New Year’s address, French President Emmanuel Macron cast the hosting of the Games as part of a year of “pride” and “hope” for France.

Guerini said Saturday that “this moment must be a moment of success for the nation.”

Labor strikes, a fact of life in France, are a big concern: To pull off the Games, French authorities plan to recruit tens of thousands of police officers, military personnel, private security guards and other workers. Any major strike during the Games could be highly disruptive.

The announcement came days after a major French union threatened strikes during the Olympics if the government did not make arrangements for workers on questions of overtime, housing and child care, for example. Several other unions also submitted strike notices covering the period of the Games, though it is not yet clear whether they intend to walk off the job.

Tourism officials estimate that more than 15 million visitors will descend upon Paris and its surroundings for the Games. The French capital has ambitious plans to host sporting events around landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River and to pull off history’s most environmentally friendly Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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But some polls show French people are more skeptical, as concerns mount about disruptions to public transportation, increased traffic, clutter from public works, and prices.

On Thursday, Sophie Binet, head of the CGT union of salaried workers, said her union would strike if the government did not prepare the Games “from a social point of view,” including through benefits for workers.

As recently as January, government employees organized a protest in front of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s office to demand bonuses and other forms of compensation for working the Games. Some held signs and chanted, “The Olympics will be without us,” according to French newspaper Le Monde.

That same month, about 200 police officers drove through Paris atop buses to demand guarantees from the government on bonuses and time-off compensation during the Games, Le Parisien reported.

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Relations between the government and various unions have been particularly tense in recent years. In 2024 alone, farmers have disrupted public events, putting up roadblocks and driving into Paris with tractors, to demand more protections for the agriculture sector. Last month, the Eiffel Tower shut down for days when workers went on strike to demand higher pay and changes in the management of the monument.

Guerini said Saturday that plans are in place to address government workers’ “legitimate” concerns. He said the government will offer workers involved in the Games 500 ($550), 1,000 ($1,094) or 1,500 euros, depending on their level of involvement. This could apply to security officers, but also to consular workers responsible for processing visa applications for people coming to the Games, he said.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin previously announced that police officers involved in the Games would be eligible for a bonus of up to 1,900 euros ($2,080).

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Guerini said the government will also offer support to the families of government employees, who may have to work long hours during the Olympics. Measures include payment of up to 350 euros ($384) per child for extra costs, as well as opening spots in nurseries and holiday camps.

Because the Games fall in July and August — typically, a sacred period for French families to go on vacation — government employees who have to work during that time will also be able to take their vacation at another date, Guerini said.

The government is set to discuss the measures with unions representing government workers on Tuesday. “The whole country hopes there will be no strikes for the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Guerini said.



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