Yes to mandatory… job creations and pay raises for healthcare workers!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
July 13, 2021

In the speech he gave last night on TV, Macron announced he would put his “reform” of the retirement system back on the negotiating table as soon as possible and confirmed that unemployment benefits will be lowered as of October 1. As if that wasn't enough, Macron declared that vaccination will become mandatory for all healthcare workers, that a valid health pass will be required more and more, and that PCR tests won't be free anymore starting in the fall. None of these measures address the issues raised by the pandemic. They serve above all to hide the failings and mismanagement of the state.

Macron has been talking about vaccinating the whole planet. But he and the rest of the world leaders can't do that. Despite their promises, only 1% of doses have been administered in poor countries so far and that's because they don't want to impose the lifting of patents on pharmaceutical trusts.

At this pace, it will take years for countries like India or South Africa to vaccinate their populations while they could manufacture their own vaccines if they had the patents. By then, how many new waves and new variants will there be?

To hide his failing management here in France, Macron is putting the focus on mandatory vaccination. This obligation will apply to healthcare workers in the broadest sense. Will recalcitrant nurses or paramedics be punished? Will they be suspended and laid off without pay, like in Italy? Will they be dismissed? Either way, threatening them with sanctions is unacceptable.

Macron didn't go so far as to accuse unvaccinated healthcare workers of "failing to assist someone in danger," the way Bayrou did over the weekend, or of "betrayal," as Kouchner dared to do. But Macron is serving us the same sickening dish. Who were the ones who assumed their responsibilities in this crisis, if not the women and men who took care of sick people at the risk of their own health and lives? And surely to work in a hospital or a nursing home today or to be a home help, you need to be dedicated and have a spirit of solidarity!

Macron reiterated that he preferred to "convince" rather than "coerce". Well, this noble philosophy clearly doesn't apply to workers! The only language the government uses with workers is that of repression – a bitter lesson healthcare workers are about to learn. Macron and Véran, the Health Minister, don't care what healthcare workers think or how they feel and they couldn't care less about their doubts and fears. Nothing new there!

Healthcare workers are in a good position to know that the well-being of sick people is not the government's priority. How could they forget that they were forced to make medical gowns out of garbage bags at the start of the crisis and that some of them were told to come to work even though they had Covid? How dare those responsible for this chaos lecture them and accuse them of being "unprofessional and irresponsible"!

What is worse, the capitalist (mis)management of hospitals goes on, with the outsourcing of cleaning services, bed closures and cutbacks left and right. The Health Minister regrets the lack of nurses – but he refuses to finance the training that nursing assistants are asking for. He deplores all the resignations – but refuses to raise wages and create jobs massively.

A series of health scandals, including the Mediator scandal1, has shown that the bosses of pharmaceutical companies are quite capable of lying to the sick and poisoning them in order to continue to cash in on profits. And isn’t it obvious that the present vaccination campaign is also a question of big money for a number of capitalists? This is where the disgust and mistrust come from!

We can feel sorry that all this has caused some to question scientific research and vaccination, but that’s exactly what capitalist society does: it distorts and corrupts everything.

If someone must be held accountable for the catastrophic handling of this pandemic and for the failures surrounding vaccination and vaccines, it's those who are in charge. Let’s not be fooled by those who aim to divide us and pit worker against worker.

All workers can come together and unite behind a simple program: mandatory hiring in hospitals! Mandatory wage increases! Mandatory publication of the contracts signed between the state and big pharmaceutical companies! Mandatory lifting of all patents on vaccines! Mandatory provision of vaccines in sufficient quantities to all poor countries!

Healthcare workers and workers in general can rally around these objectives because they have the same interests to defend.

1The drug Benfluorex, fabricated by the French pharmaceutical company Servier and sold under the brand name Mediator, was prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes and to help lose weight. It was largely paid for by France's public health insurance. The drug was known to have serious side effects including the risk of heart valve disease leading to death but the pharmaceutical company continued to market the drug despite such knowledge. The scandal became public in 2010 after up to 2,000 people had Mediator-related deaths. The drug was banned and the pharmaceutical company was found guilty of deception and manslaughter and fined 2.7 million euros.