It’s a familiar pattern: the coronavirus pandemic heavily affected Nantes’ vibrant social life, putting restaurant, tourism and cultural sector workers at particular risk.
Previously, “even if they were in precarious jobs they nevertheless had an income,” says André Sobczak, Deputy Mayor of Nantes, and Vice President of Nantes Metropole, in charge of European Affairs, Employment and corporate Social Responsibility, in this podcast interview. “And so [they] were financially independent. Now with the crisis, even if there has been a lot of support given by the national government, it’s not enough,” he adds.
But now, many new people are presenting themselves to the city’s social services, and Nantes would like to do something about it. People working in these sectors come from all walks of life – students is a particular category that are now finding things difficult.
“Luckily, we had a lot of initiatives that have been started by private actors – a lot of associations and clubs that have organised in solidarity,” says Sobczak. “And we as a city have tried to support them and make them visible to create connections between people that were facing new needs, and of course, the people that could support them.”
Ahead of this week’s Cities Social Summit and EU Social Summit, the Deputy Mayor highlights the position of platform workers. The growth of delivery services has greatly benefitted many people who are staying at home during the pandemic, but “behind this there are a lot of young people, a lot of migrants, who work in very difficult conditions, and, at least in France, they’re not recognised as employees of these digital platforms,” laments Sobczak. “As so-called independent workers, they’re not covered at all by social protection. They have no guarantee to access to a minimum wage. They’re not covered if they have an accident, and, of course, they sometimes have to support very difficult working conditions” he adds.
And Europe has a role to play – Sobczak expects far more ambitious social legislation to support the rights of platform workers, and others, and he gives many examples of the way Nantes is leading in this area.
Indeed, Nantes is one of the pledge cities to Eurocities’ Inclusive Cities 4 All initiative, having made commitments to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights in the areas of gender equality and affordable housing.
The city has created training for women to negotiate wages and is using its public procurement contracts to incentivise companies to promote gender equality. Nantes has also set up a new support centre to help victims of gender-based violence.
In the area of social housing, Nantes joins 20 other cities who have pledged in this area – highlighting this as a top social concern – and plans to build 5,000 new apartments every year, 25% of which should be social housing and 25% affordable housing.
“I think it’s important to show that Europe can actually have a great social dimension,” says Sobczak. “Many people in our city think that Europe is mainly associated to the economic dimension and sometimes don’t really see what the positive impact on their lives can be.”
Listen to the full podcast interview here:
The Eurocities Cities Social Summit, taking place this Thursday, 6 May, will discuss many of these topics, including the role that cities should play in delivering the European Pillar of Social Rights action plan. Interested to learn more? Register here