French company ‘treats us like slaves’, say striking migrant workers

Since June 11, around 40 undocumented migrant workers, hired to work for the courier delivery firm Chronopost, have been on strike outside the company’s facility in Alfortville, in the Paris suburbs. They say their working conditions are unacceptable and that the French company is taking advantage of their status to, in the words of one worker, “treat us like slaves”.

On an industrial estate just a few miles from the French capital, a row of tents and union flags lining the road indicate the picket line. This is the makeshift camp set up outside the Chronopost warehouse where the undocumented migrants once worked as part-time temporary staff.

For the past two months, since their strike began, this has been their home.

They describe intolerable working conditions at the company for these migrant staff, a subsidiary of the French post office, including working longer hours, unpaid overtime and the risk of being fired if they are sick and unable to work.

“The regular employees here, they refuse to do the heavy unloading. But us, we don’t have a choice, we do everything,” said Amadou Forfana, a spokesperson for workers collective. “They treat us like slaves.”

Without authorisation to work in France, many of the workers use the work papers of friends and family to get jobs. They claim Chronopost was fully aware of their status when it hired them.

“Two or three people can work with the same papers,” said Forfana. “Yet they (Chronopost) say they’re unaware. I don’t buy it.”

Chronopost, however, deny all responsibility. They claim this problem lies at the door of the employment agency who recruited the staff.