The French government has made the ‘historic’ decision to give pay rises worth €8bn (£7.2bn) to healthcare workers due to their vital role in the fight against the coronavirus.
After seven weeks of tense negotiations, a deal was reached on Monday and was signed with trade unions.
Throughout the pandemic, health workers have been labelled heroes for their neverending battle against COVID-19. The public has shown their appreciation through regular displays.
However, there has been the demand for there to be further recognition for their hard work, and protests have been taking place demanding that there is a pay rise for hospital staff and better funding for hospitals.
As the protests have involved some demonstrators breaking social distancing rules, they have been hit with fines.
In France, there have been over 200,000 people infected with coronavirus and 30,000 deaths recorded. It has been one of the worst-hit places in Europe.
Finally, the government has reached an agreement on payment for health workers and this will see that their wages are raised by €183 per month on average.
The agreement, which the majority of trade unions have signed up for, has been hailed by French President, Jean Castex, as a “historic moment for our health system”.
In a signing ceremony, he added: “This is first of all recognition of those who have been on the front line in the fight against this epidemic.
“It’s also a way of catching up the delay for each and everyone – including perhaps myself – has their share of responsibility.”
The large part of this pay rise package will go towards covering the wages of nurses, care workers and medical staff.
Some of the funding – around €450 million – has been reserved for doctors that work exclusively in the public sector.
The move to increase health workers wages has come the day before Bastille Day, which is a national public holiday on which healthcare workers are praised for their efforts throughout the pandemic.
As coronavirus restrictions remain in place, the usual celebrations on this day have been slightly more low-key.
In the capital city of Paris, a parade will be held on the Place de la Concorde, where around 1,400 nurses, doctors and carers will watch on as the guests of honour.
The first term for President Emmanuel Macron was been spent largely embroiled with disputes with the union.
Following a cabinet reshuffle, he expressed an interest in focusing on social justices during the later years of his term.
At the beginning of this month, Edouard Phillipe handed in his resignation as prime minister, even though he was deemed more popular than Mr Macron in opinion polls.
It was three years ago in which Mr Macron came into power but following the coronavirus pandemic, the county has been hit with an economic crisis.
The next presidential election will take place in April 2022.
Meanwhile, in the UK, people have been left infuriated after it has been confirmed that free hospital parking for NHS staff has been scrapped now that the pandemic is easing.
On March 25, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the government would be covering the costs of car parking for NHS staff, after stating they had gone “above and beyond every day” at hospitals across England. This came after a petition which reached over 400,000 signatures demanded the charges be scrapped.
However, the Department of Health has stated that the scheme is now coming to an end. Only “key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances” will now be allowed free parking.
Following the changes, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, has stated: “The BMA has always believed that it is unacceptable for staff who serve in our health service to be required to pay significant amounts of money to park their car in hospital grounds. This is even more salient as the nation recognises the immeasurable contribution of healthcare workers in fighting this pandemic.
“The Government’s decision to waive parking charges during COVID-19 was a welcome announcement, but to reinforce them, before we’ve even won the fight against this virus, is a rebuff to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe.”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the department added: “We want to make sure NHS staff can travel safely to work during the pandemic, which is why we requested that the NHS make parking free for staff and that local authorities do the same with their car parks.
“When the pandemic begins to ease, the NHS will continue to provide free hospital car parking to key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances. We will provide further updates on this in due course.”
In an interview with Sky News, former chief secretary to the treasury David Gaulke said: “The long-standing position was that parking was charged and that was a change that was temporary because of the current circumstances.
“This isn’t going to be very expensive so the government could continue to allow free parking but the point is there are some things which are quite expensive, which are temporary, and they need to be temporary and it’s very hard for governments once they’ve given something away to take it back again.”
When pressed by Sky’s Kay Burley that it would cost the government less than £150 million to carry on enforcing the change, he responded: “Well I’m exactly making that point, Kay, is that it’s not particularly expensive.
“But one of the challenges for the government is lots of small things can add up and if people will make the argument that this isn’t very expensive in comparison to furloughing, then you will never end up controlling public spending at all because nothing is expensive as furloughing.”