Yesterday was Bastille Day, as I was kindly reminded by my (French) boyfriend signing La Marseillaise at the top of his voice.
In the current circumstances, the national celebration in France was somewhat scaled down; the traditional military parade had been cancelled for the first time since the end of the second world war. Still, around 2,000 soldiers gathered for a ceremony attended by 2,500 audience members, including the head of the World Health Organization.
Complete with a flypast of jets trailing blue, white and red smoke, the ceremony paid tribute to the frontline workers tackling the coronavirus, including health workers and the armed forces.
It followed the French government’s agreement to pay rises worth €8bn for French health workers as a symbol of gratitude for their dedication during the pandemic: a “historical moment for the health system,” according to Jean Castex, the new prime minister.
However, the ceremony was met with opposition, with almost 3,000 healthcare workers and activists protesting in Place de la Bastille, the very place where the storming of the Bastille happened in 1789.
In their view, the pay rise agreement is unsubstantial. The €8bn investment in the sector fails to meet the long-term demands of healthcare workers, including better employment conditions and more secure contracts. Plus, the salary increase itself has been considered trivial.
Although disappointing for many, this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, away from purely clapping healthcare workers, and towards paying them a fairer salary for their social commitment.