Second line infantry

“The cleaning workers”, the formula is fine to qualify these employees of the “second line” who carried out their task during all the months of confinement without the possibility of “teleworking”. While we applauded the caregivers (this enthusiasm quickly dried up, since some of the health heroes, now, are conspired), we did not really think of them. The garbage collectors sometimes found children’s drawings in a trash can thanking them for continuing to pass by. We spoke of train drivers or truck drivers, home helpers. But the women and men of cleaning… Yet cleanliness, in times of pandemic, is a major issue. These workers were therefore waiting for a gesture of recognition, a revaluation of their wages. But the announced boost does not satisfy the unions, because it is insufficient, lower than inflation.

In the photo, the lady – undoubtedly, as in many cases, of immigrant origin -, dressed in the uniform of her company, works during the day, in the presence of the pupils who study in a computer school. Concentrated on their computer, they probably won’t look at it; she will make sure not to disturb them. She is lucky: the offices are not very crowded. We have known workstations, in some writing that we will not name, where only the computer keyboard remained accessible in the middle of the piles of papers!

Even though more and more companies now accept that the people in charge of maintenance intervene during working hours, the working conditions of many of these workers are difficult. They are the ones we see, drowsy, very early and very late in the suburban trains, because they live far from their place of work. They are often part-time. Their hours are staggered, complicating their role as mother and father: they are absent when their children leave school.

You have to stay late at your office to have the opportunity to meet these discreet ghosts, to exchange a few words with them, to understand where they come from, what their life is like. This is the case with this woman from Mali who, like the occupant of the office she was cleaning, had just been a grandmother for the first time and who gave on this occasion a key ring from her country braided with strips. colored leather.

These very useful jobs must be better considered, and not just in words at the heart of a health crisis. They do not make people dream; they will never make people dream; they are not the result of a vocation, but of a necessity, allowing people with little qualifications, sometimes having a poor command of the French language, to work. We need them. The consideration which is due to them must therefore go through the improvement of their wages and their working conditions. These are service professions that make the daily life of others easier. It comes at a price.


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