PARIS (Reuters) - Staff at around 20 health testing clinics in southern France went on strike on Wednesday, saying that the COVID-19 outbreak had left them overworked and at risk without being properly compensated.
Some of the clinics, operated by the firm Biofusion, had to close their doors, union representatives said, though the main testing centre was still open.
The strike action demonstrates the stress the testing system is under: At many sites, people are queuing round the block to get tests, some test results are delayed because laboratories are overwhelmed, and the French government is demanding more and faster testing.
A representative of Biofusion did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Stephanie Antoine, a technician at a Biofusion clinic out on strike on Wednesday, said the COVID-19 testing was performed by short-term hires who were not striking but that the epidemic had a knock-on effect on other staff.
She said secretaries at the clinics were having to deal with a vast number of telephone calls from anxious patients trying to find out if they have tested positive for COVID-19.
Her clinic carried out between 800 to 1,000 tests a day, she said, and two shifts of security guards had been set up in front of her clinic to handle the press of patients trying to get in for a test.
She said some staff were worried about their safety dealing with frustrated patients who might become violent.
"Psychologically, you need to hold out," she said.
Some staff had been paid a 250 euro COVID-19 bonus, said Antoine, but they were seeking a 1,000 euro bonus for all staff and better pay for long-serving employees.
(Reporting by Caroline Pailliez; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)