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France hikes police wages to defuse anger in wake of 'Yellow Vest' protests

Sebastien Bozon, AFP | French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner (L) greets officers during the reopening of the Christmas market of Strasbourg, eastern France, on December 14, 2018.

The French government signed late on Wednesday an agreement with three police unions aimed at defusing anger among police officers after weeks of protests by the disruptive Yellow Vest movement.

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The French police are getting their reward for containing the Yellow Vest protesters, who made several attempts to march on President Emmanuel Macron’s office at the Élysée palace. In the end, police officers will get even more than the 100-euro-per-month increase that Macron promised to employees on the minimum wage.

The French government has agreed to gradually raise police officers' wages by an average of 120 euros per month and up to 150 euros for the most senior officers by the end of 2019, according to the Unité-SGP Police union.

“This agreement (…) paves the way for an improvement and a modernisation of work conditions and police officers’ incomes”, said French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner in a statement, adding that the first raise of 40 euros would take place on January 1 2019.

The government also promised to address in January the issue of police unpaid overtime, which amounts to nearly 275 million euros.

Record numbers of police in the streets

The French government’s concessions come after several police unions urged officers to go on a “slow-down strike” and handle only emergencies on December 19.

France's national police have long complained about being overworked, under-appreciated and underpaid, and have tried to press their cause in the past to no avail. However, their current high profile has put them in a unique position to negotiate.

Castaner has called police into the streets in near-record numbers to counter five Saturdays of yellow vest protests. Police survey traffic roundabouts where protesters slow traffic on a daily basis. In addition, police are being asked to up surveillance of France's Christmas markets and other sensitive areas after the Strasbourg attack that killed five people.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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