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Coronavirus: a Marne labor inspector suspended for remarks on employee health protection

The affair began to make noise as far as the Ministry of Labor and at the union level. In the midst of the covid crisis19, Anthony Smith, a Marne labor inspector, moreover former secretary general of the CGT-TEFP (work, employment, vocational training), member of his national office and representative of labor inspectors at National Council of Labor Inspection, was suspended from his duties on Wednesday evening April 15. He was notified of the immediate suspension of his duties “in the interest of the service “, specifies the ministry, and on a conservatory basis, pending the implementation of a possible disciplinary sanction. Clearly, he was ordered to stay home Wednesday evening April 16.

Quickly, the misunderstanding gave way to anger among his supporters. Among which Gérard Berthiot, emblematic figure of the left at the local level, in Châlons-en-Champagne (Marne) and at the national level. He is now the correspondent in the Marne of GDS (democratic and social left). “Anthony Smith did his job in a home help structure in Reims. He made reminders of the law, for the protection of employees. He asked for an interim order so that the employees are protected. And after that, it went back to the direction of work. The ministry suspended him last night. “ Even though the structure’s home helpers were reached with the covid. Anthony Smith was immediately suspended with protective measures. The disciplinary administrative procedure is underway. The ministry’s file had not yet returned to Marne this Thursday evening, April 16.

“This is a first in France, gets angry Gérard Berthiot, improvised spokesperson for Anthony Smith. We know that some inspectors have made reminders of the law since confinement. There, the fact of suspending it is surprising, in the middle of a pandemic. The labor inspectorate is there to protect employees, it is shocking.“For the moment, the person concerned is in shock. He did not understand why this measure fell on him. He learned the news from the ministry, without notice. He would be very mobilized and motivated to defend his administrative body , but prefer not to speak publicly. “I learned that it causes talk at the national level “, says Gérard Berthiot.

At the union level, there will be petitions and positions taken. Parties are going to step up.
-Gérard Berthiot, local support of Anthony Smith

The employment and vocational training branch of the CGT has already started the fight. Other leftist political voices have spoken out on the matter. Gérard Filoche, a very active retiree, after thirty years as a labor inspector, member of the CGT or even the Insoumise deputy of France Adrien Quatennens, have already taken a stand for Anthony Smith. Like the South Union, or the FSU. The Minister of Labor, Muriel Pénicaud is targeted.

Gérard Filoche, retired after 30 years as a labor inspector. Member of the CGT or even the France Insoumise deputy Adrien Quatennens have already taken a stand for Anthony Smith. / © Twitter
Gérard Filoche, retired after 30 years as a labor inspector. Member of the CGT or even the France Insoumise deputy Adrien Quatennens have already taken a stand for Anthony Smith. / © Twitter

“False acts” alleged against the agent

The ministry explained Thursday, April 16 at 8:05 pm on this situation in a press release. Confirming that at the request of its management, a Marne labor inspector has been suspended from his duties as a precaution by the Ministry of Labor. This decision, “justified by the interest of the service, intervenes following several facts considered as faulty “. For the Ministry, the officer concerned has “grossly and repeatedly disregarded the instructions of the central authority of the labor inspection system concerning the action of the inspection during the covid epidemic 19“. For example, he enjoined employers from conditions of business continuity which did not comply with the prescriptions of the health authorities. He allegedly intervened outside his territorial jurisdiction” abefore changing his mind, after the questions raised by his initiative“.

He has developed internal practices that do not comply with the applicable professional and ethical rules.
– General Directorate of Labor (press release)

According to the ministry, the disciplinary procedure which will follow will allow the full exercise of the rights of the defense and the agent in question will be able to present his arguments in compliance with the statutory guarantees which are his. As the texts provide, he will keep his salary during the procedure. The duties of the suspended officer will be carried out by another inspector from the same control unit. The latter will continue to monitor establishments for which the suspended agent was responsible and will take the necessary action to enforce the labor code.

While the labor inspectorate has a central role in protecting the health of workers, the General Labor Directorate, the central labor inspection authority, “deplores the actions of this suspended agent. They undermine the action of the labor inspection system, its efficiency and the spirit which must animate it in this period of crisis even though the health and organizational challenges faced by workers and employers require rigor, consistency and discernment“.

Several unions have told our colleagues of L’Express want to contact the International Labor Organization on this subject. In view of Article 6 of Convention 81 of 1947 . “The inspection staff will be made up of public officials whose status and conditions of service ensure their stability in their employment and make them independent of any change of government and any undue external influence.“.

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