“Work is mistreated, in the private sector as well as in the public sector”

VTwenty years after the first occupational health plan led by Gérard Larcher, then minister (2004-2007), the issue of work is now back at the top of the government agenda. It is healthy. The anger of workers at the pension reform has revealed to power the depth of the unease of many French people with regard to their work. But, contrary to what we too often hear, this is not a “loss of work value”, on the contrary: the surveys all show that a large majority of workers consider their work to be useful , and most of the unemployed aspire to a job.

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In fact, it is only a confirmation: the work is abused. European surveys on working conditions show, wave after wave, a degraded situation for women as for men, in the private sector as in the public sector. In 2021, nearly half of French workers declare themselves exhausted, a record in the European Union. Occupational mortality is also a concern. Here too, France holds the sad record for the number of accidents: twice as many in absolute terms as Germany, which is more populous.

The current power is not entirely accountable for this situation. Public labor policy has been drifting for fifteen years: staggering of medical visits to hide the misery of occupational medicine, derisory means of the labor police, dismantling of CHSCTs…

Above all, the roots of the malaise are deeper: the social sciences show that the difficulties experienced by workers are rooted in the organization of work, more precisely in the resources available (or not) to the worker to deal with problematic situations, to arbitrate between contradictory injunctions, to translate disembodied prescriptions into reality. Beyond the diversity of situations, it is possible to identify at least three major shortcomings of current management that are particularly harmful, and all too common in France.

Collective dimension

First through, the difficulties at work are referred to the behavior of the individual. Occupational illnesses and accidents at work would come, in the minds of leaders and managers, from an inability to respect safety rules or even to lead a healthy life, from inappropriate gestures and postures. The role of management would then be to guide the professional behavior of individuals, to repeat the rules, to monitor and sanction the “offending”. However, research shows that non-compliance with the rules results more from the failures of the organization than of the individual.

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