Drama at the Valence Employment Center: “The health crisis is acting as an accelerator. We see the situations becoming tense ”

A Pôle Emploi advisor was shot dead by an armed man who then made a second victim in a company, in Valence (Drôme) and Guilherand-Granges (Ardèche), this Thursday, January 28. The suspect was taken into custody.

If the investigation has yet to determine the motive for these two murders, this drama raises the question of the safety of Pôle Emploi agents, in a context of social tension increased by the Covid-19 crisis. Contacted by “Obs”, Denis Lalys, employee of Pôle Emploi Bretagne and secretary general of the Federation of Social Organizations at the CGT, ensures that the long-term solution cannot be “all security”, but a fundamental improvement the conditions of treatment of benefit recipients, payment of allowances at reception in the branch.

What was your first reaction after the attack this Thursday morning in Valencia?

It aroused real astonishment and an enormous shock for all the staff of Pôle Emploi, for our union organization, but also for the beneficiaries who witnessed this scene within the agency.

Yes, we can eradicate poverty!

For several years, we have been alerting the public authorities to the deterioration of reception conditions at Pôle Emploi. It is in particular the consequence of the desire to do everything digital: beneficiaries are referred to online media and face a real dehumanization of reception, or even agency closures. It is an organized degradation, wanted by the public authorities. Job seekers also see their payments and their conditions of treatment deteriorate, while controls, them, multiply.

How is this situation reflected in the agencies?

On site, the impact is concrete. Tensions increase with recipients who do not understand why no one can answer them, or why an appointment must be made to be received even when they urgently need to know their rights for the next month after the loss of their employment.

Welcome to this videoconference. You are going to be fired!

This results in insults that fuse, live or by telephone, verbal attacks, even physical, and sometimes even death threats (in Toulouse recently). This is the case everywhere in France, particularly in recently deindustrialised regions which find themselves in dramatic employment situations.

Does the social crisis resulting from the health crisis lead to an increase in tensions?

The employment situation is particularly complicated, and this crisis acts as a particle accelerator. We see the situations tighten up, and exasperation rise. Some employees on fixed-term contracts, temporary workers or temporary workers find themselves without income, without a long-term solution. Faced with them, agents who are sometimes trained in a hurry, do not always have an answer to provide … The difficulties linked to the general situation are exacerbated in times of crisis.

How is security ensured in the branches?

In some agencies, private security guards provide entry and exit security. Everything safe reassures employees and policyholders, but it can only be a temporary solution. The basic problem remains the general breakdown of social protection. The reform of housing allowances or unemployment insurance, the explosion of insecurity will have dramatic consequences.

What is the situation in other social organizations, such as CAF or MSA, agricultural social security, which you also deal with?

They all operate on a just-in-time basis, in particular because of the objectives and management agreements and job cuts. Processing times can be up to three months. Under these conditions, I do not place the responsibility on the users who are legitimately exasperated, but on the organization and the way in which social protection is destroyed in France. The government must take the measure of the disaster we are heading for.

Interview by Agathe Ranc

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