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20 Dec, 2018 10:38

Blue vests feeling yellow: ‘Exhausted & overworked’ French police unions ready for action

Blue vests feeling yellow: ‘Exhausted & overworked’ French police unions ready for action

With anti-government Yellow Vest protests still roiling France, it now seems that some fed-up French police unions are ready to get in on the action, complaining of low pay, unpaid overtime and unacceptable working conditions.

Speaking to RT on Wednesday, French police union representative Loic Travers said that when some officers are not in uniform “they become Yellow Vests” because they identify with the protesters’ cause.

“We are middle class, or even lower, because of our salaries, our origin. That’s why some colleagues feel that they are Yellow Vests. The cause of the Yellow Vests really resonate with the police,” Travers said.

English-language French news outlet The Local reported on Tuesday that the Alliance Police Nationale had called for a “black day for the police” on December 19 and called the police protest “Act 1” of police action.

Also on rt.com ‘We didn’t listen to people’: French PM admits mistakes in dealing with Yellow Vest rallies

In an open letter to French lawmakers on Monday, Denis Jacob, the spokesman for national police union Alternative Police, said that police "risk their lives" daily to maintain public order and safety, but are now at a “breaking point” and feeling that “they too are affected by the demands of the Yellow Vests.” Police officers are feeling “exhaustion, weariness and deep anger,” the letter said.

The last thing that the French government would want as social unrest continues across France is for the police to begin striking in large numbers. Police unions have been in discussions with the French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner since Tuesday.

One concession already offered to police is a €300 ($340) bonus to officers who have been deployed during Yellow Vest protests — but the unions say it’s not enough and are demanding that 23 million hours of overtime be paid.

Castaner acknowledged the problems to reporters on Wednesday, saying that the state “already owes almost €275 million ($315mn) to its police officers for overtime — not in recent months or years, but for decades. We cannot have debt at that level.”

The police budget is due to be discussed as part of the 2019 budget in the National Assembly on Thursday, but unions say the current amount is not enough to pay for overtime, improve conditions or recruit extra staff.

Frédéric Lagache, the deputy secretary general of the Alliance union called the budget “insufficient” and said the French police are “not doing well and nobody is listening,” the Express reported.

Another union, UNSA-Police, has announced that its members will only provide minimal services starting this week and another, Unité SGP-Police FO, has suggested that officers protest on January 26 if the government does not address their concerns.

France has been rocked by the Yellow Vest protests since mid-November when demonstrators demanded the reversal of planned fuel tax hikes, eventually forcing President Emmanuel Macron’s government to back down and scrap the plan. The protests then morphed into a wider anti-government movement against other economic policies and rising costs of living.

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