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Tuesday, August 19, 2008.


Unpaid by their ‘bankrupt’ boss, the employees of a Parisian waste collection firm paid him a visit recently, at his home in the heart of France’s wine-making Loire Valley.


Translated by KL John.


Editor's Note: Original report appeared on Rue89


Since 20th May, forty-six employees of BMS sans papiers – that is, working in France illegally - have been demanding their unpaid salaries and regularisation from the local authority.  In France, where armed police are renowned for conducting sweeps of areas with high immigrant populations, surviving day to day life without having your papers in order is tough. 


BMS is a waste collection and demolition company based in Nanterre, western Paris. The staff have all put in between two and ten years of service, but have not been paid for two months.  Supported by France’s largest trade union, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), regularisation will at least allow the BMS workforce to move on up. 


BMS main site in Nanterre, a rubbish tip, is nestled behind, and in clear view of the landmark towers of La Défence, Paris prosperous business district, and BMS employees still live on it. 


They worked non-stop and slept in shifts. Sleep, like meals, happened anywhere; in tents, in the company lorries, wherever a spaced could be cleared. 


Despite the toxins they were exposed to around the clock, BMS never provided its employees with neither masks, nor gloves nor any form of health care and they are exempt from state protection. Ahmadou Diallo, hired in 2003, gave French journalists a tour of the living conditions, explaining, among other things, that water and electricity have now been cut off.


Far far away from there is Anjou, the northern wine country capital.  Maupassant Park is located there, a magnificent French garden of no less than twenty-two hectares, which recently opened its gates to the cameras of a major French TV channel.  Fountains, golden cherubins, rose gardens, pretty Marie Antoinette vines, the owner’s tour leaves you marvelling…isn’t the owner’s name Claude Buisson, and doesn’t he also own BMS?


As the report was being broadcast, the unpaid workers were petitioning for their salaries, and were struggling to obtain the regularisations from the local authority.   Last week, when nine of their number had received notice to quit French soil, CGT decided to take them on a trip to Anjou, to try and meet with Mr Buisson at his new place, Maupassant Park. 


The objective: to ask the owner of the waste collection firm to support the applications of the employees who haven’t been able to get regularised thus far, and to guarantee that all unpaid salaries will be paid, explained Francine Blanche, confederal secretary of the CGT.


Out of 1,500 applications for leave to remain by sans papiers employees filed with the local authority since 15th April, 750 have received a favourable result.  The durations of the leaves to remain and accompanying sacrosanct right to work, however, have varied, from three months to one year. 


Back at BMS headquarters in Nanterre, thirty-seven people have received their papers.  Hostile to the principle of case by case regularisations, the employees have decided to keep hold of their pickets until all their colleagues have been granted the right to work in France. 


Buisson had the grace to look ashamed when confronted.  Whether all his staff will receive better treatment from the French state than they did from him, however, remains to be seen.


Video at: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x669gz_excursion-au-parc-maupassant


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