Browse all

Will Paris be overwhelmed by household waste?

A new dustmen's strike threatens to darken the horizon

Will Paris be overwhelmed by household waste?  A new dustmen's strike threatens to darken the horizon

Who could forget the last garbage collectors' strike? Whether it was due to the pestilential odors or the mountains of refuse sometimes rising several meters high, these images went around the world. In March 2023, the garbage collectors' strike, protesting against pension reform, lasted more than three weeks, causing waste to pile up across the country, reaching a peak of over 10,000 tons in the capital. The possibility of a second act threatened the city of Paris throughout the Olympic Games, "Yesterday, Tuesday, an agreement was reached to allow the lifting of the strike notice that was in effect for six days in May – the 14th, 15th, 16th, 22nd, 23rd, and 24th – and from the 1st of July to the 8th of September," announced the Paris city hall in a statement. A few hours earlier, the CGT FTDNEEA, union representing the Parisian garbage collectors, had filed a strike notice covering several days in May as well as the entire period of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This action aimed to draw attention to the working conditions of the garbage collectors and to push for salary improvements and specific bonuses for workers during the Games. The announcement elicited mixed reactions, divided between support and concerns about the potential disruptions this strike could cause during this internationally significant event.

As soon as the strike notice was announced, the Parisian garbage collectors immediately expressed their dissatisfaction by stopping work and gathering at key waste collection sites. This first wave of mobilization clearly had a significant impact on waste collection services, disrupting the daily lives of Parisians. However, reports on the extent of this disruption have been subject to marked differences. On one side, the Paris city hall sought to minimize the extent of the strike by presenting figures suggesting a relatively minor disruption. According to their initial statements, only 16% of Parisian garbage collectors were on strike, a proportion they tried to present as having little impact on waste collection services. Curiously, they omitted to provide details on the volume of uncollected waste, suggesting an attempt to conceal the reality on the ground. On the other hand, the CGT FTDNEEA presented a very different picture of the situation. According to them, the mobilization of the garbage collectors was massive, with strike rates reaching 70% to 90% in some districts. Moreover, they highlighted that hundreds of strikers had taken over the human resources department building at City Hall, thus demonstrating the firmness and determination of the garbage collectors to make their demands heard.

These contradictions in the reports on the mobilization and its initial impact contributed to a tense and uncertain atmosphere at the beginning of the strike. To avoid a catastrophic scenario, both parties hurried to start negotiations. The agreement was quickly reached, respecting both the interests of the garbage collectors and those of the Paris city hall. During the discussions, the garbage collectors emphasized the need for a significant salary increase as well as a special bonus for their commitment during the Olympic Games. For their part, the city hall took these requests into account while keeping in mind the budgetary constraints and other needs of the city. Concessions were made on both sides in order to reach a satisfactory agreement. The city hall thus agreed to increase the indemnity regime of the garbage collectors while preserving the special bonuses for the agents mobilized during the Olympics. In exchange, the garbage collectors accepted salary increases spread over time, thus demonstrating their willingness to compromise to ensure the smooth running of the Olympics. The final agreement includes several key elements. First, it provides for a revaluation of the indemnity regime of the garbage collectors, with an increase of 50 euros gross per month starting from July 2024, followed by 30 euros gross per month starting from January 2025. Regarding the bonuses for the agents mobilized during the Olympics, the agreement maintains amounts between 600 euros and 1,900 euros, depending on the level of intensification of their workload. Although these bonuses are lower than the initial demands of the garbage collectors, they nevertheless represent a tangible recognition of their contribution during this major event.