A 17-day-long protest by contract workers at the emergency reception center at Ibis Hotel in Bagnolet, Seine-Saint-Denis, in France, ended in victory on Saturday, August 6. 10 workers, of whom nine are undocumented, at the center run by the firm Coallia were demanding full payment of their five months’ salary, recognition of their employee status, and necessary documents from the employer for their regularization. The strike was supported by the local chapter of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and the French Communist Party (PCF). Several trade unionists and elected representatives like Stephane Peu and Soumya Bourouaha (both MPs from the PCF) had earlier visited the protesting workers and expressed their support and solidarity.
In March 2020, the Ibis Hotel was requisitioned by the French government in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency. The center was run by Coallia and the employees were hired by sub contractor GABA Global Service International. Since July 20, seven workers at the center were protesting (three others joined later) demanding pending salaries, recognition of their employee status and necessary documents for their regularization from the Administrative Forms Registration and Review Center (Cerfa) file. Following their 17-day protest, on the night of August 5, the Coallia CEO agreed to give the workers their salary arrears, Cerfa documents and new contracts.
In a statement issued on August 6, CGT-93 stated that “the protesting workers at the emergency center were “first line” workers who contributed to the maintenance, reception and the management of an emergency accommodation center for 800 people, opened in March 2020 in the wake of the health crisis. Without Covid protection, without priority access to vaccination, they have undertaken an important social function, to a precarious public, on a state-run public mission.”
“The victory of these workers is an important milestone in employees’ journey to overcoming the invisibility and vulnerability that rogue bosses will continue to exploit. For the regularization of undocumented workers, the CGT continues to demand, reopening of physical cash registers in prefecture, simplification of procedures, regularization of full rights based on proofs of work (bill, paycheck, contracts),” the statement added.
While visiting the protesting workers, Stephane Peu said, “the undocumented workers at the emergency reception centre provided security and food distribution in the establishment and they did these missions especially during the whole health crisis. Several of them have even contracted COVID-19 once or more.”