This Wednesday, September 28, at the Administrative Court of Nancy, Anthony Smith awaits the cancellation of his disciplinary sanction. In August 2020, this labor inspector, stationed in Reims, was sanctioned by the Ministry of Labor for having tried to protect, in the midst of the first wave of Covid 19, the home helpers of a Reims association.
“It’s a bit crazy. This whole affair, I have often said that it was surreal”. Anthony Smith, union official with the Ministry of Labour, was waiting for this Wednesday, September 28, 2022 with impatience and relief. Two years that he “drags” this case. Two years that he lives and works with this sanction permanently in a corner of his head.
We learned at the start of the afternoon that the public rapporteur was asking for the cancellation of the sanction against Anthony Smith. It remains to be seen the judgment of the court, expected in mid-October. “I’ve been saying for two and a half years that what I did was just my job”confides Anthony Smith to France 3 Champagne-Ardenne. “That it was for the benefit of the employees, so that their health and safety is ensured. I was prevented from doing so by the State, which suspended me in an abusive manner, which sanctioned me by automatically changing me . With what I suffered, it was more generally the labor inspectorate that was attacked.”
“I am at work in Bar-le-Duc, I am doing my work as a labor inspector and I will continue it. I remain calm, as since the start of this legal battle. I know that what I have done would be again. I hope that the judgment of the court will cancel this sanction which has no basis, no foundation: I would be very happy. The sanction was taken for reasons other than the law. If it there was no reason for this sanction, it is good that it was taken for political reasons.
“There were interventions by the president of the Marne departmental council with the cabinet of Minister Muriel Pénicaud. My local management intervened directly in this file, asking to no longer follow up on my control. All of this is known and public. While I am independent and must be able to enforce the law. The State does not have all the rights. They tried to defeat my control because independent labor inspectors should not be able to intervene in companies during the first wave of covid.”
Before September 28, when we met him in Châlons-en-Champagne, he displayed his eternal optimism. The one who has not left him since this famous April 15, 2020.
I suffered a state reason that fell on me from the moment the President of the Republic said that we were at war against covid.Anthony Smith, union representative to the Ministry of Labor
On Wednesday September 28, 2022, at the Administrative Court of Nancy, the hearing concerning the appeal filed by Anthony Smith took place. “This appeal, I filed it as soon as I was automatically assigned to the Meuse, on October 2, 2020, after having been sanctioned with a disciplinary transfer in the context of the exercise of my duties as inspector of the work. The court will have to hear the case. He will deal with it on the merits and then take a judgment which, I hope, will lead to the cancellation of the sanction that I suffered for having, in March and April 2020, requested that home help of an association in Reims can benefit from protections in the context of the first wave of Covid. In particular masks but also a whole series of measures. And when I took a judicial summary by addressing myself to the Reims court, the same evening, I was suspended from my duties for four months, then sanctioned in the middle of the summer of 2020 with an automatic transfer. . This is what I come to seek from the administrative court: the cancellation of my sanction of my disciplinary transfer.
Since October 9, 2020, Anthony Smith has resumed his field job as a labor inspector. In the Grand Est, of course, but not in Reims, his home port. “So today, yes I am at Bar-le-Duc, I have great colleagues, I have a control sector which is exciting. But there is still the sanction and I will not let go. cancellation because I believe in what I do, and I go after what I do. The threats, the pressures I had plenty of them, but, I would never have imagined for a second that the ministry would go through with it. act at that time. I underwent a reason of state which fell on me from the moment the President of the Republic said that we were at war against covid. Me, I simply tried to do my job as I have been doing for more than 15 years, namely defending the labor code, its application, the protection of employees in companies. Covid was considered a mortal risk on the first wave, it was necessary that employers take measures. This was not sufficiently the case in the association concerned. I intervened with legal means, I I intervened legally. I seized an independent judge so that he could order measures and faced with this, the reaction was totally disproportionate. It was to suspend me.”
In March 2020, Anthony Smith, a labor inspector stationed in Reims, was seized by the staff representatives of a Reims home help association, Aradopa. The latter then believe that the company’s employees are not sufficiently protected against the deadly risks of the coronavirus. Anthony Smith then draws up a list of equipment but also work reorganization measures to be put in place by those responsible for the structure. But, faced with the inertia of the leaders of the association, he decides to seize the judicial court of Reims via an interim order. He was suspended from his duties the same day.
You have to realize what it was like, in the middle of the first wave (of Covid), to be suspended and confined by having bailiffs at home who arrive one day to notify you of the deletion of your computer, your telephone portable.Anthony Smith, trade union official with the Ministry of Labour.
“All of this is happening in a local, Marne, rather special situation, with pressures, with influences, with departmental council presidents who exchange with my management, who exchange with the prefect, who exchange with the cabinet of Muriel Pénicaud ( Minister of Labour) to organize my suspension. All this is documented. In emails (that the editorial staff of France3 to broadcast) we learn that my management asks the employer not to respond to my requests. We learn that the employer asks about the disciplinary procedure concerning me before I even know about it. Finally, here is something that appears to be a bad series B whodunit. Unfortunately, it was real. I want the story to end and I think it will end by acknowledging the administration’s responsibility in this matter.”
On April 15, 2020, Anthony Smith was therefore laid off, then during the following summer, suspended from his duties and transferred to the Paris region. “Disciplinary law is not law. It is the one who accuses you who judges you. It is the one who says that you have committed a fault who decides on the sanction. There is no separation. The case was judged in advance from the moment I was sanctioned, suspended. The administration unfolded its disciplinary procedure, left me four months cut off, disconnected. You have to realize what happened. , in full first wave (from Covid) to be suspended and confined by having bailiffs at home who arrive one day to notify you of the deletion of your computer, your mobile phone. To summon you to a disciplinary council… All this without any exchange. The state, in its most absolutist version, which is set in motion and that has nothing to do with a fair trial”.
The summer 2020 sanction is revised for the first time. The State and its Ministry of Labor are backtracking with the arrival of Elisabeth Borne. “We have already won a lot. Elisabeth Borne, on September 9, 2020, in the columns of Le Monde, considers that the whole file is “neither done, nor to be done” and reinstated me in my Grand-Est region. while I was transferred to Melun. She also reinstated me in my job as labor inspector in control when I was in a closet and in my union mandates in the region in particular”. From the first victories he owes to his tenacity but also to the numerous supports he receives.
Now we must repair, we must recognize. This is what I hope the court will do on September 28.Anthony Smith, union representative to the Ministry of Labor
“There are two extremely important things. First, what I did was right and if I had to do it again, I would do it again. I have the conviction, the certainty of it and I only did my job. The 2e, it is the formidable mobilization. The Support Committee co-chaired by Mathilde Panot, Thomas Portes, the hundreds of supporters of organizations, the 1,300 colleagues from the ministry who will make a public appeal concerning my case, the 160,000 people who will sign the petition we are launching like that like a bottle in the sea and who seize it. All this gives strength, that of not being alone.”
If Anthony Smith speaks of madness in this affair, a question remains unanswered: why?
“It was a question of making an example, that others do not do the same thing or do not continue. On April 3, 2020, there was a winning judicial summary before the Lille court, in the same sector of Imagine that an independent labor inspector seizes an independent judge again and that others engage in this way, the State did not accept it.
You know, the labor inspectorate has existed since 1892. It is an institution which existed even before the Ministry of Labor and which is independent, independent of influences. So we have institutional and political pressures. We resist it. But there, they exceeded the limits, they went much too far. It happened. The citizens, the parties, the trade unions, the associations have all reacted because in fact, behind my case, it is the question of the independence of the labor inspectorate which has been attacked directly by the Ministry of Labor -same”.
Wednesday, September 28 is therefore an important date. But Anthony Smith knew that the court decision would be reserved. So we will have to wait a few more weeks. Live a little longer with this sanction, with the hope of its lifting. And then, it will then be necessary to completely digest these two years and move on. This period will remain striking and violent whatever happens.
“Muriel Pénicaud published a press release in mid-April (2020) to all the newsrooms in France dragging me through the mud. The sanction I was subjected to was sent to the entire hierarchy of the Ministry of Labour. Hundreds of people have received it. They really wanted to shoot me, but I am calm, I know why I do this job. Since the beginning of this affair, we have approached the departmental and regional management of Labour, the prefecture and then the ministry. No one ever responded to our interview requests.
“Now we must repair, we must recognize.”