Striking Paris garbage collectors demand Olympic bonus

Europe  Thomas PadillaAP
© Thomas Padilla/AP

Paris garbage collectors have gone on strike less than three months before the start of the Olympics to demand a bonus for working during the event. For months they have been demanding a wage increase, and the unions have filed a notice to strike during the Games if no deal is reached.

Rubbish is once again piling up on the streets of Paris after garbage collectors started a three-day strike Tuesday. They're planning another three days next week.

Demands are a €1,900 bonus for those working during the Olympic and Paralympics, along with a €400 salary increase.

“We want to give a good impression of Paris to all the tourists that we will host, but our involvement needs to be compensated,” said Smina Mebtouche, the secretary of the waste sector of the CGT trade union that called the strike.

The union says employees should be compensated for foregoing their annual summer holidays to work during the Games. The bonus would recognise the larger-than-usual quantities of rubbish that will accumulate in the city.

If demands are not met, the union has filed for a strike notice from 1 July through 8 September, which covers the duration of the Olympic and Paralympics.

Second stand

The threat is real for the city, which wants to avoid a repeat of the rolling anti-pension reform strikes in March and April last year, which included blockades of the city's three incinerator plants.

Images of piles of garbage in Paris made headlines around the world.

Strikes are also threatened in other sectors, like police and healthcare, if workers are not compensated during the Games.

Garbage collectors in the port city of Marseille went on strike for a week at the end of April ahead of the arrival of the Olympic torch, demanding better conditions.

Faced with threats of requisitioning workers, they agreed to go back to work in time for the arrival of the torch, but the issues remain unresolved.

City 'held hostage'

Responding to critics who say the Paris garbage collectors are holding the city hostage, Mebtouche said it was the city holding the workers hostage by refusing to compensate them correctly.

Garbage collectors are recruited on the minimum wage of about €1,400 euros a month after taxes, working 35 hours a week – though some receive up to €1,500 euros a month more with bonuses and other allowances.

Since the pension reform, they can retire at age 59 (up from 57), though many leave later to work enough years to receive a full pension.