Resistances: French prison workers win the right to labor protection!

Until now in France, being employed while incarcerated was not placed under labor protection of the civil society. Instead, it was regulated by the prison system. There was no work contract and wages were as much as three times less than minimum wage. On Friday, a court decision changed all that, placing prison workers’ protection under the regime of regular labor laws.

While in jail as a remand prisoner, Marilyn Moureau worked for a phone company. She was laid off for having placed personal phone calls during her work time. In the language of prison management, she was “déclassé” (displaced), a term designed to mark the difference between prison labor and `real’ work. She took her former employer to the Labor Relations Board (prud’homme) and charged them for not respecting proper employment procedures. She won and got everything that is guaranteed by law for workers, including damages and compensation.

This is an important decision because it asserts that work is work whether workers are incarcerated or not. Labor rights should apply to every worker, including prisoners. It also states that people must keep their civil visibility while in jail or prison.

Moreau’s lawyer declared, “It is a great day for all the prisoners of France … an historical decision!”  Let’s hope it inspires the struggle fight to induce changes in worker protection around the world.

Brigitte Marti, bridgemarti@gmail.com

About Brigitte Marti

Brigitte Marti is an organizer researcher who has worked on reproductive rights and women's health initiatives in France and in the European Union and on women prisoners' issues in the United States.