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“We are put in unnecessary risk”: the discomfort of teleworkers forced to return to the office on May 11

The government promised it on Tuesday. After May 11, telework should remain the norm when possible. The objective is clear: avoid crowds in transport and proximity to offices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And limit, too, the height of the second wave ahead.

However, some employees, who have been teleworking since mid-March, are already preparing to return to the office. Faced with orders from their hierarchy and the lack of resources, they expressed their lack of understanding to the Parisian-Today in France.

Aurélie *, 39 years old: “We are made to take unnecessary risks”

For Aurélie, telework in times of epidemic was obvious. Employed in an office of the Departmental Fire and Rescue Service (Sdis) in Ile-de-France, the civil servant continued working remotely without problem. “Everything is completely dematerialized, I work on web applications. Whether I’m at the office or at home, it doesn’t change anything, ”she judges. “For the moment, we have all carried out our missions without having the slightest impact on the structure,” she says again.

Difficult then to understand why his hierarchy requires him to return to the office at the time of deconfinement. “We thought that after Edouard Philippe’s speech, they would change their minds. But no. We have been told : government policy is government policy. Sdis policy is that of Sdis.

The risk is considerable for the 150 employees concerned. “We are in small offices, social distancing is not possible, and we share them with doctors, firefighters, people who collect patients every day,” laments Aurélie. Masks have been promised to him and to his colleagues. Nothing regarding the hydroalcoholic gel or a reorganization of the offices.

“I am angry, I do not understand how a company does not seek to protect its employees. We are made to take unnecessary risks, ”she is indignant. While remaining resigned. “We were told that if we were not happy, we had to go work elsewhere. It’s almost folded. I have no choice, being in the audience, I will have to go back. I cannot afford the abandonment of post which would lead to a dismissal. “

Mathilde *, 23: “My manager threatened to fire me”

Not long ago, Mathilde, a student and apprentice for an online sales site, received an unexpected call from her supervisor. At the other end of the line, he asks her to come back to the office on Monday, a week before the cleaning up.

The young woman, who lives with her mother who was just discharged from the hospital for pneumonia, refuses and wants to continue working remotely. In charge of order logistics, she can stay at home, working from her computer and her phone. ” He told me : Look, it’s simple. You refuse to come, I’m going to call your school, it’s over, we stop the contract She says, still angry. “I explained to him that, legally, he couldn’t do that. He retorted: there is the legal, and there is something else

For the apprentice, going to work represents a considerable risk. “I have to take the tram and the metro, and I see that there are already people outside, in full confinement. I don’t want to take any risks because, if I get infected, I risk seeing my mother leave, ”she worries.

It is not the first time that Mathilde has been threatened by her superior. “Whenever I didn’t go his way, he threatened to fire me. When I asked for fixed times to hand in my student work, he threatened me. Same thing when I wanted to be absent for a medical appointment. But this time, it went further, he really contacted my school, ”says the young woman, who also deplores abuse in full confinement. “I was paid partial unemployment, but I worked full time. I had to assert my rights for my employer to supplement my salary, ”she says again.

“He thinks that because I am young and still a student, I am stupid and I do not know my rights,” said Mathilde. For the moment, she has chosen not to return to work, hoping to be able to benefit from the support of her school in this dispute.

Antoine *: “There is a lack of confidence”

From May 11, Antoine will also have to take public transportation to get to the office. An unjustified risk according to him: his work, which consists of managing social networks, requests by e-mail and the site of his Ile-de-France company, can be done remotely.

It is within his indirect hierarchy that it gets stuck. “There is a lack of confidence. I have the impression that we consider that, if I’m teleworking, it’s more to be in r modeholiday, and not for work, “he testified. “Admittedly, our activities are quite reduced, but it is due to confinement. During the strikes, I was also teleworking. I produced a lot, sometimes twice as much, whereas here, even if I want to do more, it’s a bit complicated. If I were in the office, it wouldn’t change anything, ”he says.

For the young man, the risk of transport is even greater, because of his fragile health. “I am not officially among those at risk, but I suffer from chronic illnesses,” he says. One of his relatives fell ill with Covid-19 almost two months ago. She still hasn’t recovered. “She has lung detachments, cracks on the last two straight ribs, can barely move,” he says. “It made me realize how serious the disease was. “

But for him, “out of the question” to disclose his medical problems to his colleagues and superiors. “I think it is intimate,” he says. Only occupational medicine knows its history. It is on her that he counts to issue an opinion in favor of telework.

Sandra *, 23: “We trainees have to deal with public transport”

For almost two months, Sandra, an intern, has been working “on Word and Excel documents or PowerPoint”, doing “online research”, or organizing videoconferences with her bosses and their clients in a Parisian company which she wants to keep silent about. field.

“Usually, my missions require only a computer and a printer. Even if the exchange is more complicated and learning is slowed down, teleworking has gone well so far, “says the business school student, who confined herself to her family, several hundred kilometers away from Paris.

So when Edouard Philippe recommended the continuation of telework, she expected her hierarchy to do the same. “I had a clear refusal from my employer, who requests a presence in Paris from May 11, or as soon as possible if there are transportation concerns to reach the capital,” she deplores.

Impossible for the young woman to dispute: “My bosses do not care about our fears, they pretend a loss of productivity on the part of the whole team (including themselves) in telework. They explain that an internship cannot be done under these conditions, and that they have already been nice not to end our contracts, ”she says.

According to Sandra, this decision is easier for the hierarchy than for the trainees. “My tutor and the various superiors all have their own means of transport. We trainees have to deal with public transport, ”says the student, who admits being afraid of going back to Paris to live alone, without any guarantee of seeing her family again quickly.

* The first names of the witnesses have been changed to guarantee their anonymity.

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