French police will be given pay rises after their so-called Blue Vest protests followed the Yellow Vest anti-government movement.
The accord was announced by unions last night, after two days of talks with President Emmanuel Macron’s government and a strike which saw police stations close down except for emergency duties.
Police have complained of exhausting hours of patrols and chronic under-investment in equipment which have stretched departments to breaking point.
A group of police officers organized plans on social networks for a Thursday night demonstration in front of a station on Paris’ Champs-Elysees Avenue. At that spot, police and gendarmes have confronted protesters with tear gas, water cannons and armored vehicles on multiple Saturdays since last month.
About 80 people wearing police arm bands, some emergency workers and others gathered for the peaceful demonstration to show they are still angry. Some sported yellow vests in solidarity with the anti-government protesters.
Riot police officers block police officers as they take part in a rally to protest their working condition at the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris
A French police officer holds a flare as they protest against their working conditions on the Champs Elysees in Paris
A French police officer holds a flare as part of the ‘GyroBleus’ movement (a pun with the Gilets Jaunes – Yellow Vests’ movement)
‘We don’t have the means to be everywhere at the same time … We have to make a choice and that’s not normal,’ Guillaume Lebeau, vice president of a group called Mobilization of Angry Police, said.
Last month an officer who led an ‘angry police movement’, which emerged after the 2016 firebombing of a squad car with two officers inside, was found dead at her home in a suspected suicide.
Unions blame difficult working conditions for a suicide rate among police that is 36 percent higher than for the general population, according to a Senate report. More than 30 police officers have taken their own lives in 2018, many of them with their service revolvers.
The rate is higher among gendarmes, who unlike police are part of the military. In the last known suicide, a gendarme took his life in November in the garden of the prime minister’s office.
The Senate report published in July on how to overcome the ‘malaise’ makes clear that the daily routine of a police officer can mean contending with dilapidated equipment, rundown cars, filthy stations and an out-of-touch management.
bout 80-100 people protested Thursday in front of a police station near the elegant Champs-Elysees avenue, flashpoint of recent rioting
A masked police officer (right) attends a demonstration near the Champs-Elysee in Paris, France on December 20 2018
Lebeau said in a video that some police wear bicycle helmets on the job because there aren’t enough helmets designed for law enforcement.
With protests in overdrive in France in recent years, when terror attacks have multiplied, burnout is not uncommon, aggravated by work and by living conditions for some called into major cities, the Senate report said. It noted that it is not unusual for officers brought into Paris for duty to pile up in small rooms or to sleep in their cars.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner vowed that things will change. He tweeted Thursday that equipment and buildings were part of a ‘first-of-a-kind effort for our security forces.’ He also acknowledged that ‘unacceptable situations remain,’ a reference to unpaid overtime.
Talks on compensation and work hours – perhaps the toughest part – are planned for January.
For many officers, the violent clashes with rioting ‘yellow vest’ protesters in Paris and other cities on recent Saturdays, and the huge manhunt for the gunman who attacked a Christmas market in Strasbourg last week, were the final straw.
‘This agreement… paves the way for improved and upgraded working conditions and pay for officers,’ Castaner said in a statement.
Riot police officers block police officers as they take part in a rally to protest their working conditions – mainly their long hours
French riot police face police officer as the police officers try to access the Interior Ministry during a protesting against chronic under-investment
Union officials said that starting next year average monthly pay will be gradually boosted by 120 euros a month, and up to 150 euros a month for senior ranks.
The government will also begin negotiations on the huge backlog of overtime pay, with unions saying they are owed a collective 275 million euros.
With the pay hikes, the government said a planned 300-euro bonus for officers would now be reserved only for administrative employees and technicians.
‘It’s what we were looking for, we wanted an immediate boost to spending power,’ said Yves Lefebvre of the Unite-SGP Police union after Wednesday’s talks.
Police were emboldened in their demands after the government announced a 10-billion-euro package of financial relief for low-income households to quell the ‘yellow vest’ protests which have rocked France over the past month.
The measures include a rise in the minimum wage, tax relief for pensioners and tax-free overtime pay for workers.
The movement aims to highlights the difficulties of the police after weeks of social tensions and years of high terrorist alerts
A French police officer holds a flare as they protest against their working condition (left) while another wears a yellow vest which reads ‘good-bye Macron’ (right)
The renewed protests come as authorities said a ninth person has been killed in the yellow vest protests when they were hit by a truck
The total cost of the police pay increases was not disclosed. It comes as authorities said a ninth person has been killed in the yellow vest protests.
Interior minister Christophe Castaner said the victim was a protester killed in the south-west city of Agen.
Calling for calm, Castaner said: ‘This must stop. Nine dead.’
Politician Olivier Damaisin said the protester was hit by a truck and had been a local yellow vest movement leader.
Eight others have died in incidents tied to the movement, mostly from traffic accidents linked to roadblocks.
On Wednesday, passengers were hit with delays at a Paris airport after French ‘Blue Vest’ police protesters deliberately slowed down passport controls.
Macron (pictured at a Christmas Party last night) has given French police pay rises after their so-called Blue Vest protests followed the Yellow Vest anti-government movement
Demonstrators wearing yellow vests gather during a visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Biarritz, southwestern France on Tuesday
Passengers were hit with delays at a Paris airport on Wednesday after French ‘Blue Vest’ police protesters deliberately slowed down passport controls
The tactic saw police dragging their heels at passport check-in lines in at least one terminal of Charles de Gaulle airport in a row over unpaid overtime.
The airport police prefecture said the slow-down was currently hitting only Terminal 1, and any delayed check-ins at two other terminals were due to a high number of passengers.
Police were working but taking their time with ‘deep checks’ of passengers, the prefecture added. Beleaguered forces across the country have faced five straight weeks of Yellow Vest protest.
The Paris Aeroport authority tweeted and posted on its website that ‘controls at borders may be longer’ and advised passengers to allow extra time.
The delays came as the Alliance police union called on police officers across France to handle only emergencies amid negotiations with the Interior Ministry for compensation after weeks containing often aggressive protests by a grassroots movement.
Police have also been called on for extra duty following a deadly attack last week near the Strasbourg Christmas market that has led to increased surveillance around France.
French police union bosses threatened their own ‘Blue Vests’ if President Emmanuel Macron fails to listen to their calls for a halt to planned cuts to the police force
Riot police were mobilised on the streets of Biarritz on Tuesday as the Yellow Vests took to the streets in protest of the French foreign ministers’ visit to the city
The beleaguered French police (pictured spattered with paint on Paris’ Champs-Elysees on December 8) have faced five straight weeks of protest by the Yellow Vests