Hotel cleaners in Paris claim milestone victory after 22 months of ‘battle for dignity’

Cleaning staff at an Ibis hotel in Paris took a historic victory on Tuesday after a nearly two-year battle to improve working conditions and pay.

“Slavery is over, abuse is over,” shouted the workers of Ibis Batignolles as they celebrated the signing of a comprehensive agreement that allowed them better wages and regular working hours.

The 19 women and a male colleague were on strike for 8 months in July 2019, before receiving state benefits along with other hotel workers at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As their 22-month struggle continued, their frequent protests drew a growing number of supporters, including union leaders, politicians and ordinary citizens.

“We’ve had a nice win,” said a jubilant Rachel Keke, a prominent striker, brandishing the document signed by her employer, an Accor group subcontractor who owns the Ibis chain.

“Now we can do our work at ease,” adds her colleague Deneba Diallo. “In the past the work was too hard, without breaks and not even with the right to drink a little water. There was no mercy for us. ”

After a 22-month strike, the women working as cleaners for the Paris Batignolles Ibis hotel have received a raise and better working conditions. They are now celebrating the long-awaited outcome of the social mobilization.

– Canela Laude-Arce (@canelald) May 25, 2021

Union representatives said the deal signed Tuesday would guarantee monthly wage increases of between $ 250 and $ 500, with some staff going full-time.

The cleaners were given the right to work longer hours at a slower pace, to take a 30-minute break, and to use a punch clock to make sure they were paid for overtime.

“We are in a world where workers actually need punch clocks, something they hated in the 1960s and 1970s,” noted economist François-Xavier Devetter in an interview with AFP. “Punch bells have become a tool to ensure that labor laws are respected.”

Devetter, who has written a book on low-paid jobs in France, said the Ibis case was a symbolic victory in a long and unequal battle pitting “a particularly vulnerable and largely female workforce against employers who are nearly untouchable.”

He added, “It is also symbolic because what the workers obtained was simply to enforce the law.”

Hotel cleaners have staged strikes and protests over wages and working conditions at numerous French institutions in recent years, although the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed their momentum by leaving the industry in crisis.

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