As long as nothing was signed, a silent excitement floated in the air in front of the Ibis Batignolles hotel, Tuesday, in the 17e district of Paris. The twenty or so chambermaids, employed by the cleaning contractor STN, were sitting patiently in front of the hotel. Then, all dressed in their colorful boubous, they entered in clusters to sign the agreements ending twenty-two months of mobilization. It was when the last signature was put that the joy exploded. Rachel Keke, one of the leaders of the movement, rushed out of the hotel shouting “ Victory! “. Fists rose, bodies hugged and mouths sang: “Slavery is over. Abuse is over. We won ! “
Victory also for the CGT of prestigious and economical hotels (CGT-HPE), which accompanied the movement. “It is the longest strike that I have seen in my career”, notes Claude Lévy, leader of the union, who claims more than thirty years of commitment. The working conditions of some sixty subcontractors employed by STN – not just the strikers – will be raised at the level of the employees directly employed by the hotel. After several months of fruitless negotiations, Claude Lévy explains this turnaround by the gradual resumption of the reopening of hotels.
The mobilization began in July 2019. About thirty chambermaids at this hotel – the largest Ibis hotel in France, after that at Charles-de-Gaulle airport – had started the strike. They requested their integration into the Accor group and the improvement of their working conditions. In the end, they will only have obtained this second claim. The agreement, signed between the employees and STN, in the presence of the Accor group, the CGT-HPE and the labor inspectorate, provides for an increase in salaries – between 250 and 500 € per month, for salaries between 800 and 900 € – which includes a packed lunch bonus. Seven strikers get a full-time contract.
The number of rooms to be cleaned increases to two or three per hour, against three and a half previously. The employees also obtained the installation of two staff representatives and the installation of a time clock, to precisely measure working time. “We couldn’t stand the pace anymore, sometimes we had 40 rooms to clean, remembers Mama Ndiaye, one of the strikers, an employee of STN for ten years. If it was a big departure day, or if the rooms were very dirty, more time should be spent cleaning them. In this case we finished later, but the overtime was not paid. “
The strike lasted eight months, during which the CGT-HPE financially supported the strikers. “An online cash register raised € 284,000 and guaranteed between 80% and 100% of their salary”, indicates Claude Lévy. During confinement, they benefited from partial unemployment. But the mobilisations in front of several Accor group hotels have never stopped. “It paid offbreathes Rachel Keke, all smiles behind her mask. For us, the agreement represents a regained dignity. We will finally be respected. “
There is still a counterpart to this agreement: the abandonment of the proceedings before the courts in exchange for compensation to each, the amount of which is kept confidential. In parallel with the strike, several legal proceedings had been initiated. A first judgment of the Paris industrial tribunal, in November 2020, did not recognize the existence of “Illicit loan of labor “ between SNT and the hotel operator. The employees had appealed. Another lawsuit had been launched, this time assigning the Accor group alongside SNT. For Claude Lévy, of the CGT-HPE, this abandonment of the lawsuits does not mean the end of the demand to internalize these employees. “ When we can’t get internalization right away, we get it in two stages, he explains. First, by equal treatment. Then Accor will quickly realize that it is less expensive to hire them internally. “ According to the CGT-HPE, they cannot be transferred to another hotel without their agreement.
The date for resuming work has not yet been set. Before leaving the hotel forecourt, the strikers lined up for a photo and sang the chorus of the mobilization one last time: “Rub, rub, you have to pay. “ Quickly transformed into: “Rub, rub, that has paid ! “