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FRANCE-SOCIAL-PROTEST-HEALTH Health care workers demonstrating to call for better working conditions  (AFP or licensors)

France: Over eight billion for health workers

The French government has reached an agreement with unions to provide over eight billion euros in pay rises for the nation's troubled health workers. France's recently appointed Prime Minister Jean Castex said the move was overdue amid the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

By Stefan J. Bos 

When the virus raged through France, people applauded every night for health workers. But the same workers complained that such gestures rang hollow if concrete steps did not follow it.

Long months later, the French government wants to act. It says the bulk of a new package comprises 7.5 billion euros ($8.5 billion) for pay increases for nurses and care-workers. They will get an average monthly rise of 183 euros ($208).

There are also 450 million euros ($510 million) for doctors intended to increase wages for those who solely work in the public sector. The move is to lure them from more lucrative private clinics.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

Prime Minister Castex called it "a historic moment" for his nation's troubled healthcare sector. He admitted it was a recognition of those who have been on the front line in the fight against the pandemic.

And the French leader stressed it was a way to "catching up the delay for everyone," providing crucial medical care.

But not all are pleased with the deal. Some unions, including the hard-line CGT, even refused to sign the agreement. That was an indication that tensions over the issue remain.

The coronavirus epidemic has now killed over 30,000 people in France, authorities say. While infection rates have fallen markedly, officials remain wary of the risk of a second wave.

14 July 2020, 19:48