It’s tough being a rat hunter.
Paris’ rodent exterminators staged a one-day strike to denounce their deteriorating working conditions and call for better recognition of their ‘important’ work, two months after a huge rat-culling operation was undertaken in the French capital.
Some 50 protesters—nearly the entire staff of the Paris’ pest control unit—gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday holding a giant banner that read “The staff are angry” with a dead rat lying under it.
According to the CGT trade union, there have been 14 layoffs in the unit this past year and only three dozen workers were deployed to fight the proliferation of rats around Paris, leaving them overworked and distressed.
“They are the ones exposed to the most difficult tasks… They have always been forgotten, and they have always been the ones to do the dirty work,” union representative Olivier Garret told AFP.
“Their work is central to the city and they only want to be recognized.”
On top of staff reinforcements, exterminators are asking for a 2,000-euro pay bump ($2,125), according to the CGT. Adding to their grievances, they claim that, contrary to street sweepers, they have not been “thanked” enough for their help in cleaning up the gruesome scene from the November 2015 terrorist attack at the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people lost their lives.
Paris’ socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo responded by saying she would address personal thank you letters to each staff member.
Back in December city officials launched a widespread anti-rodent campaign that was quickly dubbed the “war on rats.” Several parks and tourist hot spots— including the Champs de Mars surrounding the iconic Eiffel Tower—were closed for several weeks while exterminators took to the city’s sewer tunnels with poisonous baiting traps.
Last week, Hidalgo said the city would spend an additional €1.5 million ($1.6 million) to clean up the city’s streets and rid the capital of rats.
Although the exact number of rats crawling the streets of Paris is unknown, the latest estimates say the French capital could be home to nearly 4 million rodents.