Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, French healthcare workers have been demanding higher pay, increased funding for hospitals, and more staff. France has been one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, with over 200,000 infections and 30,000 deaths. This year, after seven weeks of tense and fraught negotiations with trade unions, the French government finally gave these workers “historic” pay raises: about 8 billion euros or about $9.1 billion. This decision came just in time to celebrate Bastille Day, with the French government hosting smaller gatherings on Bastille Day to honor these workers.
A healthcare administrator from Paris named Laura Rezé, said that her wages will increase by about 183 euros, or about $208, a month. In an interview with CBS News, she said “it doesn’t make a huge overall difference, but it’s better than nothing.” She added “This is definitely progress… I just wish it didn’t take a pandemic for us to be seen and heard.”
Instead of the traditional Bastille Day parade this year, due to the pandemic, there was a military parade on the Place de la Concorde that was dedicated to nurses, doctors, and other hospital workers. There were several thousand spectators, including families of health care workers who had passed away during the pandemic, watching from socially-distanced seating. Officials from Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, and Switzerland were also invited to watch due to their countries’ acceptance of French patients.
After the ceremony, thousands of yellow vest activists, a grassroots movement that demands economic justice, and healthcare workers protested demanding increased public funding for healthcare and better contracts. They were met with tear gas from the police.