Essity, a Swedish manufacturer in France that produces tissue paper, baby diapers and feminine care products, has been called out for treating employees like dogs after the company announced that workers must wear a social distancing device that "emits a high decibel sound if employees are too close to each other."
According to the CFDT, the largest union representing workers at Essity, the device is nothing but a glorified dog collar since similar devices are used to stop dogs from barking. In an interview published in the French newspaper Le Monde, the CFDT revealed that the necklaces emit a sound of 85 decibels if the two-meter distance is not observed.
Christine Duguet, a CFDT union representative, explained that even though Essity claims that the device is intended to "discipline employees and call them to order," implementing the system is "an attack on individual freedoms."
Duguet said there's no need for the restrictive devices since workers have remained as vigilant as they were during the early days of the coronavirus in France, adding that Essity employees followed social distancing protocols and wore masks throughout their shifts because they are "responsible people." (Related: Documents reveal meatpacking industry, USDA colluded to downplay coronavirus risks to workers.)
In response to the allegations that workers will be forced to wear dog collars, Essity clarified that the social distancing devices will only be used to "strengthen employee safety."
According to the company, the system will be used to identify "potential contact cases more quickly and comprehensively." Essity noted that the devices don't have a geolocation system and that they won't be tied to the personal information of employees.
The devices will also be deactivated when workers use the toilet or are in the cafeteria, added Essity.
Duguet didn't believe the company's claims, noting the company itself insisted that the devices would be anonymous and identified only by a serial number. She added that the devices will only cause anxiety among Essity employees since there were no known cases of infection in the factory.
Duguet also expressed concerns about Essity continuing to use the system "security" once the pandemic is over.
According to one report, the device might be configured to vibrate instead of emitting light or sound.
Essity also denied that the devices were like dog collars as the social distancing device isn't worn around the neck but around the waist or in a pocket. Necklaces are banned in the Essity factory for safety reasons.
Le Parisien reported that Essity has already deployed the system in the United Kingdom. The social distancing system is also being tested in the Netherlands. An Essity spokesman said that the devices are still in the testing phase in France.
François Asselineau, the president of the Popular Republican Union party in France, announced that the next stage of the social distancing devices will send "an electric shock of 380 volts between the two offenders."
Duguet thinks the devices will be useless and that they would just "end up in the bin or stay in their boxes."
Phi Data, the gadget's Belgian manufacturers, revealed that at least 90 or 95 percent of employees must wear the devices for them to be effective. Aside from Essity, a plant in Chatellerault could also enforce the social distancing devices.
The Chatellerault plant is located in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine where at least 1,200 patients have been hospitalized because of the coronavirus. About 160 infected patients are in intensive care.
While cases fell during a November lockdown, the number of seriously ill patients has increased again across France. The country once again enforced a nationwide curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. to control the steadily increasing cases of infections.
As of writing, anyone traveling to France from outside the EU must have a negative test result and self-isolate for a week upon arrival. In a speech, Prime Minister Jean Castex advised that the measures must be followed due to the urgency of the situation.
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