Coronavirus: “Home help, I decided to exercise my right of withdrawal”


Martine (1), 42, has worked for “years” in an association (2) which helps elderly and vulnerable people. As a home helper, she does the shopping, cooking and housekeeping for patients. Faced with her employer’s refusal to comply with basic health and safety instructions, she decided to exercise her right of withdrawal. Release collected his testimony.

“Since March 15, my colleagues and I have had to keep working if we want to continue to earn our low wages and support our families. I go to the homes of the elderly to assist them on a daily basis. Despite the confinement measures and the safety instructions, my colleagues and I cross Paris by metro to assist seniors. Our tasks and routes remain unchanged. Our employer does not provide us with masks or gloves. I go unprotected to isolated, fragile people. In an almost dead city, I line up at the entrance to the stores to shop and then cook them. I take transportation with the fear of being infected, of infecting others, of infecting my family when I get home.

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“I called my managers several times to get masks, gloves and hydroalcoholic gel. They told me they don’t have one. During this time my anxiety grows. That of the patients too. Some cancel the visits. I also found myself having to reassure patients who were worried about seeing me arrive at their homes with their bare hands and hands. “Don’t go home”, they shout. So I contacted the unions who couldn’t get things done. I continue my complaints with my managers, feeling like I am disturbing and annoying them. It should be noted that the majority of the association’s executives telework. In front of the multiplication of calls, the management makes a “effort” and offers each life attendant two masks to protect themselves. I explain to them that two poor masks will not do the trick.

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“At the end of last week, an episode made me realize that the situation could not last this way. Since confinement, I visit three or four patients a day. In between, I had to wait for hours in a city where the stores are closed. It’s cold, I don’t know where to go. So I decide to return to the offices of the association to shelter. I had to wait an hour and a half in the cold on a bench before security let me take refuge in a end of the corridor. At the end of the day, I realize that I left at 9 am and returned home at 7 pm. It can’t go on like this!

“I decided, on Monday, to exercise my right of withdrawal to guarantee security that my employer seems unable to offer me. I called my management to inform them of my decision. My manager told me that the right of withdrawal “is reserved only for officials.” Sure of my fact and the information gleaned, I retort him that not, then send him an email notifying me of my decision to no longer exercise my profession under such dangerous conditions. Despite their dissatisfaction, I told them that I would only resume work if the confinement was lifted or if enough gloves, masks and disinfectant gel were made available to protect me. Since my retirement, other colleagues have followed, many have opted for sick leave.

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“I received an email on Wednesday in which my employer “recognizes that I did not have the necessary equipment given the shortage of masks”, announces that I have “10 masks per week available” and announces that my “right of withdrawal will no longer be valid from March 27, date of the next distribution of masks”, under penalty of sanctions. I estimate that 10 masks per week are not enough to ensure my protection when you know that the lifespan of a mask is 4 hours. The email also does not mention gloves or disinfectant gel. The last official message we received was a text message stating that 5 masks were distributed per week… I am dismayed. ”

(1) The first name has been changed.
(2) The name of the structure is not specified in order to protect the witness.

Balla fofana

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