Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Demonstrators march as part of a nationwide day of protests called by several workers' unions, in Paris, on Sept. 17, 2020

CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of workers at COVID-19 laboratories in France went on strike on Thursday, a trade union said, angry over poor working conditions as the coronavirus testing system buckles under huge demand.

The hard-left CGT union said the strike was disrupting testing in some towns and could drag on if laboratory owners failed to deal with staff shortages and increase pay.

The walkout comes as the government demands more and faster testing to fight a surge in new coronavirus cases.

Story continues below advertisement

“We’re overwhelmed,” said laboratory nurse Aminata Diene, one of about 50 lab workers protesting outside a diagnostics centre on the edge of Paris.

The 31-year-old said her Bioclinic laboratory in Bezons, which is staffed by four nurses and would normally handle 40 COVID-19 tests a day, was closed as a result of the strike.

“We can’t be on the phone, physically greeting patients and carrying out tests all at once. We’re exhausted, physically and mentally.”

France has ramped up testing fivefold since the peak of the first wave and now carries out more than one million tests a week. But at some testing centres, people queue around the block and results can take days because of the bottleneck in laboratories.

Le Figaro reported that in a meeting with senior ministers last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “One million tests is all well and good, but it’s pointless if the results arrive too late.”

The government published a decree on Wednesday paving the way for antigen tests that give a result within 20 minutes and could ease pressure on RT-PCR testing.

It advised the antigen tests would initially be used for hospital workers, care-home staff and travellers at airports, a spokeswoman for the Paris regional health authority said.

Story continues below advertisement

Pascal Boudeau, a technician for 35 years at a medical laboratory outside Paris, said management needs to start listening after ignoring the calls for help for weeks.

“We’re at our wits' end. We get verbally abused, sometimes physically. The pace is relentless,” the CGT member said. “We’ve given up counting the overtime we do for free.”

The lab workers strike coincided with street protests organized by the CGT and several smaller unions in numerous cities across France.

The CGT accuses Mr. Macron of destroying France’s social security system, ruining public services and placing the interests of big business over those of workers even as the novel coronavirus wrecks the economy and forces job cuts.

The situation demanded “deep reform in a total break with the social and economic policies of the day,” the unions said in a joint statement.

Mr. Macron’s reforms to liberalize the economy and bolster French competitiveness have prompted waves of sometimes-violent protest during his three years in office.

Story continues below advertisement

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies