“Renewable strike”: a new stage of showdown between biologists and executive power

“We are for dialogue, but we will be able to remain firm and take responsibility.” On October 26, L’Express spokesman Alain Le Meur, spokesman for the Alliance for Medical Biology (ABM), did not rule out a strike to protest the austerity demanded by the government after two years of the Covid-19 epidemic. The deed is done: biologists announced on Monday, November 7, in the evening “a renewed strike of all biomedical laboratories” from Monday, November 14. They hope that they will be followed by large private networks, the same members of ABM (Biogroup, Cerba, Eurofins, Inovie, Synlab).

On October 27, laboratories had already suspended the transfer of their RT-PCR (Covid) screening test results to the national SI-DEP file, making it difficult to track the progress of the epidemic. “We are fulfilling our mission in the field of public health without punishing patients and for free, but without guaranteeing our main role in monitoring the epidemic,” ABM said at the time. This uprising angered the government, which denounced the “unacceptable” boycott. Biologists resumed reporting test results on Nov. 2 to show a “sign of openness,” according to the president of ABM, which brings unions and major lab groups together.

ABM has been at odds with the government for more than a month now, which wants to impose lower prices on them through the social security budget. Biologists denounce the “blind planning of the running costs of biology, which is left to the profession” in the social security budget, and criticize the “austerity madness” of health insurance. “It would be unthinkable to pillory (…) an exemplary profession. We were good students, we were asked to take tests,” Alain Le Meur emphasized on October 26 L’Express. When asked about the savings envisaged in Le Parisien’s social security budget proposal on November 2, Thomas Fatom, CEO of Cnam (health insurance), insisted on the “profitability of the sector before COVID-19 and a significant improvement in the financial situation. the position of the laboratories since then”. “Public money should not support the speculative lab bubble,” he said.

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The government is not going to back down

The last chance meeting, Monday, November 7, came to an end. Liberal biologists who arrived at health insurance headquarters late in the day “hit a wall,” their four unions say in a statement sent to AFP. They say they were in for an unpleasant surprise: they came to negotiate a puncture capped at 250 million euros, as envisaged in the social security budget, but “only in 2023”, they explain that, on the contrary, they received “a new, more solid offer than originally thought »: 280 million next year, then 322 million a year until 2026.

“This policy of blind planning will lead to the closure of local laboratories, especially in rural areas and medical deserts,” they warn. On October 26, Alain Le Meur warned of the consequences for analytical laboratories: “We will not be able to survive such significant falls.”

According to the biologist Le Parisien contacted after Monday’s meeting, the strike should affect “all city laboratories on at least 14, 15 and 16 November.” He elaborates that “hospital testing, dialysis, urgent home trials (including chemotherapy), and medically assisted reproductive assessments will be the only actions that will be considered these days.”

Trade unions warn ministers François Braun (health) and Gabriel Attal (public accounts) against the “risk of a general mobilization of health liberals”. However, management is not going to change its mind. Government spokesman Olivier Veran said on France 3 on Sunday 6 November that there was “no way back” to savings included in the social security budget and that “there is no reason to reconsider this position.”


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