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“They fired us like dogs”

The three women are not afraid to speak. On the other hand, they did not want to see their pictures published in our newspaper for fear of reprisals or misappropriation of their picture via social networks or dirty leaflets… This is enough to identify the climate of pressure, mistrust and fear of the deaf. which surrounds the affair of the employees dismissed in 2022 in high schools controlled by the Réunion region, revealed by the leaders of Jacques Tillier, developed by JIR and today brought before the courts by SAFPTR or the agents’ lawyers.

Sudden replacements without notice

Apart from their differences in age and itinerary, the three former employees of the Réunion region tell more or less the same sad story. A career in the maintenance sector of regional premises or colleges, the duration of which suggested permanent employment, even employment, good grades… then a brutal replacement without notice, sometimes complicated with threats and humiliation. “I started small”remembers Nadège Grondin, who started in CUI contracts in 2014 for a few hundred euros a month, chaining cleaning posts in regional departments all over the island, before going through the Roland-Garros high school, the high schools Ambroise-Vollard, the logistics department of the Region and Pierre -Lagourgue high school in Tampon… After 8 years in the “box”, good references and support from the management team, at the age of 48 she had high hopes to see its permanent employment – as allowed by the laws aimed at combating precariousness – or at least to be renewed.

“Don’t worry, you will be renewed”

A perspective shared by Clémence Fontaine, 39, employed at the Bois-d’Olives high school, mother of four children, including a baby, and Brigitte Lépinay, 62, who worked in the same company. Among these three women who had secured employment and/or a future permanent contract during the previous tenure, none said they had received any letter from the region announcing the termination of their contract; none were invited to interviews regarding the continuation of their career, which are mandatory in case of non-renewal. Worse: all three claim to have received more or less identical calls from the inverted pyramid: “Anou mentioned: don’t worry, as long as you apply for it, you will be renewed, your process is ongoing”summarizes Nadège; “I got a call to tell me everything went well”, Clémence confirms… even her bell on the side of Brigitte. Hence the relative serenity of the three employees, supported by seniority… and above all by trust in Huguette Bello’s words. Because Clémence, Nadège and Brigitte have all heard the candidate’s commitment to put an end to “witch hunt” which has too long followed the alternation within the Reunionese communities. “I said to myself, here we are, we have a woman in the region, it’s going to be a different style, we’ll see…yes, we’ve seen”said Clémence Fontaine sadly.

“He said he wanted to touch me”

Before the end of her contract, she discovers that she has been replaced, pure and simple, by the agent recruited to take over temporarily during her last maternity leave. Added to the surprise is a misunderstanding linked to the identity and career of his replacement: it is, she says, Vincent Vienne, son of Axel Vienne, 5th deputy mayor of Saint-Joseph, municipal councilor of CASUD and regional councilor for the majority. The young man, she adds, would have left a stable position at a well-known hardware company to come to work in high school. “Why take my place and give it to someone who works?” she asks. She says that she met her replacement at a sociable event organized by the establishment: paradoxically, it was he who would have poured out his heart to her and confided his difficulties as a single father… The tone changes, reports Clémence, who disputes his postponement when his successor receives a letter from the judge. “He told colleagues he would beat me if he found me”she says.

If she now stands at a good distance from her former business, Clémence is nevertheless determined to put forward her arguments and especially the protection in connection with maternity – “her rights as a woman”, she says. Rights that she says she asked another woman, Céline Sitouze, 8th president of the Réunion region in charge of education. “I fell from above”continues Clemence. “Madame Sitouze did not listen to me, refused to consider my situation. She made me understand that, seniority or not, permanent contract or not, employment or not, the majority had changed and that now it was theirs trip.”

Parents and activists for elected officials

The formula highlights in particular the situation of Jean-Claude Sitouze, brother of the elected official who replaced Nadège Grondin at the Lycée Pierre-Lagourgue du Tampon. A non-renewal again carried out without interviews and notices of rigor and without motivation, the former agent protests… Like Clémence, Nadège did not meet the one who succeeded him. “I had covid”she says, “I was supposed to resume right after the start of the school year, but my colleagues called me to tell me that I had been replaced and that, given the atmosphere, it was better not to show my face.”

More than the kinship between the regional elected official and her replacement, it is the latter’s financial condition that surprises Nadège. “This gentleman has companies with his wife, a linen shop, very well known in Saint-Pierre, a micro-nursery in Le Tampon and maybe another company… These are people who live well. Me, I only get my unemployment and you know , it is the region that compensates, not the Pôle Emploi… so it is difficult to get paid, there are always difficulties, complications. I struggle with credits, whereas my position is taken by someone who is neither permanent nor in need.”

“At 62, it is difficult to find a job”

Back to Bois-d’Olives, where Brigitte, who arrived on a beautiful morning, found someone at her job, she says during a telephone interview. “She is an activist by Huguette Bello”, she says. There again, says Brigitte, no prior warning, no interview, no email prepared it. The sky falls on his head. “I was told that the old ones had priority, especially since we are trained in the covid protocol. In addition, I have been waiting for employment since 2018…I started in CAE, worked at Lycée François-de-Mahy, at Roland- Garros, at Bois-d’Olives, at CREPS…I have always been well noticed she said, overcome with emotion. At 62 it’s hard to find a job… and I don’t have the annuities… and I have credit to pay just like everyone else… and I have the rent… and I have the bills… and you know, sir, I never would have believed…they threw us out like dogs…and…”. And for a moment, at the end of the line, there is only silence.

Geoffroy G. Legros

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