[Tribune] “The Masks Coop should not have died” – Debates



“We are at the start of the eighth wave of the covid-19 pandemic and the Mask Coop is filing for bankruptcy. How did we get here ? At the start of the covid-19 pandemic, the State wanted to create a production capacity for masks that guaranteed us health autonomy. Consumers of mask orders have been the base of consumers of producers who have embarked on this activity, as well as those who have financed them, in the public as well as in the private sector. French producers must dominate the market. But the import rate of masks (mainly from China) in public tenders increased from 95%, before the covid period, to 97% between September 2020 and summer 2021, according to the union of French mask producers. However, the State first encouraged the development of production units throughout France and then, after several months, drew up specifications in order to favor French producers by recommending the application of a clause imposing the production of masks. and raw materials in Europe. Buyers who always have the price as their main criterion and not the origin of the production or the quality.

Imported masks are not checked by the customs services for lack of resources, which places French producers at a competitive disadvantage on their own market since they are themselves subject to meticulous checks. Who asks if the masks distributed in supermarkets and on Amazon are up to standard? Who wonders about working conditions in factories? Who wants to know the environmental footprint of masks during the product life cycle? We only ever know what we say about the communication services of companies concerning their commitments in terms of social and environmental responsibility.

“With the Coop des Masques filing for bankruptcy, one thing is clear: in neoliberal Europe, there is no alternative to the market. Local, environmental and cooperative experiences are not competitive. Defending cooperation and solidarity in the health and social sector has become a challenge. »

A complicit silence prevailed. French mask producers are forced to cut prices in an attempt to compete with the prices of these imported masks while maintaining their requirement for quality standards. Three years ago, the State and companies invested in the Mask Coop, but then few became those who, honoring their commitments, placed an order with it. Today, it is filing for bankruptcy for lack of orders. However, let us remember, the Coop des masks was created to repair the mistake of the closure of the Plaintel factory by the Honeywell group – which relocated in 2018 -, in a period of force majeure where equipping the population with Masks were a national priority. Today, the war in Ukraine, the cost of energy have they changed priorities as an eighth pandemic wave is on the horizon and our supplies are threatened by the uncertainty on world trade?

With the Coop des Masques filing for bankruptcy, one thing is clear: in neoliberal Europe, there is no alternative to the market. Local, environmental and cooperative experiences are not competitive. Defending cooperation and solidarity in the health and social sector has become a challenge.

For a few cents more, it’s guaranteed failure. But if, tomorrow, China does not deliver its approximately 1.7 million masks to the Paris police headquarters, its five million masks to the armies and at least as many to the Hauts-de-France region, this promises to new fights on the tarmacs. While public aid for companies amounts to at least 157 billion euros per year, which makes it the first item in the state budget, bankruptcies are multiplying and public debt is growing. Today, it is not just the Coop des Masques that is threatened, it is the entire French mask production industry. The Coop of the masks creates the hope of a reindustrialization of France, of a pluriactivity in a region like Brittany, of a real health democracy based on confidence thanks to a regulated market. The Masks Coop should not have died. It had a social utility and structures like this always had the principle of general interest. »

The list of signatories

Simon Duteil, David Cocault, Murielle Guibert, Patrick Guilleminot, Murielle Lepvraud, Serge Le Quéau, René Louail, Tristan Lozach, Elen Riot, Aurore Ruellan, François Ruffin and Christophe Winckler

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