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French police unions in government talks on pay

French police union representatives have met with minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner, to discuss overtime pay and compensation in light of the last month of protests, with nothing yet decided.

Unions Unsa-Police, Alliance PN and SGP Police-Fo met with Mr Castaner yesterday (Tuesday December 18), but talks continued until late in the evening without reaching a resolution.

Yves Lefebvre, of SGP Police-Fo, said: “There is nothing concrete for the moment. There is a minister who is listening. We will know more tomorrow night. [But] the Prime Minister and the President have not yet understood what we are asking for.”

Law enforcement officers are seeking recognition and financial compensation from the government after months of unpaid overtime, 14-hour working days, and poor working conditions, which they say have been exacerbated by the gilets jaunes protests and increased terrorism threat after the Strasbourg shooting.

One police officer said: “Out of 10 days, [I worked] 10 hours, 14 hours - sometimes 16 hours - per day, without a single day off, without being [given time] to eat or drink.”

Mr Castaner has admitted that recognition for extra overtime hours is necessary.

He said: “The State currently owes almost €275 million to the police for overtime hours...over the past dozen years. [Paying and absorbing this] will take a bit of time.”

Possible solutions being discussed to address the gilets jaunes protest hours include a government grant of €300 per police/military officer - which would concern over 110,000 workers in total.

If it goes ahead, this is likely to be discussed in the Assemblée Nationale as part of the 2019 budget planning, with the government proposing to fund the grants - to the tune of €33.3 million - by raising the “crédits de la mission sécurité”.

The government has also proposed the idea of €200 grants for each local prosecutor who was required to work overtime in relation to “the behaviour and strain of recent safeguarding operations and of maintaining public order”.

Last night, after three hours of negotiations, the unions decided to break off talks until today, but will continue to seek a resolution.

One union representative reacted to the idea of the €300 grant, saying: “We are [actually] asking above all to be able to do our job in good conditions.”

Amid the discussions, some unions have proposed an “Acte I” for themselves - in reference to the protest terms used by the gilets jaunes - and have suggested a “black day” of strikes for police.

But Mr Castaner said he “had heard the grievances” of the unions, and said that he “does not believe” that such a strike day would be necessary.

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