Interns vote to call off dispute

May 5, 2000

France's trainee doctors this week called off industrial action over hours and working conditions that had hit many of the country's teaching hospitals in the past few weeks.

Talks with Martine Aubry, minister for employment, led to an agreement including an 11-hour break after 24 hours on duty, which will need extra posts and take three years to introduce fully. It also covers extra pay when on call and at weekends and a flat-rate increase of E975 (Pounds 562) a year (current pay is between E1,219 and E1,676 a month).

Union representatives welcomed official recognition that they should be treated as doctors, rather than trainees on work experience. The internes, equivalent to Britain's junior hospital doctors, had rejected earlier ministerial concessions as insufficient.

The trade union Intersyndicat National des Internes des Hopitaux (ISNIH) had warned that if the talks were unsuccessful, the internes had plans for a total stoppage of work.

Meetings held in Parisian and provincial teaching hospitals voted to continue, and if necessary extend, strike action if the talks failed.

Over the Easter weekend, 22 of France's 26 teaching hospitals were affected. The trade union estimated a strike rate of up to 70 per cent in Paris and between 80 and 90 per cent in the provinces.

The action belatedly spread to Besancon and Bordeaux, and internes at Clermont-Ferrand declared a total strike. Joined by other hospital workers, including senior registrars, the ISNIH gave notice of a complete walk-out to take effect this week if an agreement was not reached.

The internes demanded a cut in their weekly workload over the next four years from the current 60 to 70 hours or more to a maximum of 48 hours as proposed by the European Parliament, rather than over 13 years as planned by the government.

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