France's powerful workplace inspectors fear coming under influence of big business


A much-trumpeted reform of professional training is being examined by French MPs this week as part of the government’s bid to tackle unemployment. But one largely overlooked proposal to change the operational structure of workplace inspectors – the officials who enforce health and safety at work – has provoked industrial action. These inspectors fear the reform will take away their independence and make their managers vulnerable to influence from unscrupulous companies and politicians. They cite the case of one young woman inspector who was put under pressure to go soft on one major firm and ended up taking prolonged sick leave suffering from stress. Rachida El Azzouzi reports.

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Officials in charge of safety in the workplace have been taking industrial action over fears their independence will be jeopardised by a government bill that is currently being examined by MPs. Inspectors from the state organisation the Inspection du travail say that the reform will leave them and their bosses exposed to pressures from business and employers' representatives to be lenient with companies who breach employment law. They point to the example of a young woman inspector who had to take time off work after coming under pressure from her boss over her dogged investigation of a powerful regional business. If this new law is passed, they claim, such incidents could become widespread.