Covid Collars to Monitor Worker

Covid Collars to Monitor Worker

A move to force workers to wear electric dog collars have sparked growing concern and anger in France. The proposal is just the latest of various efforts to exploit the covid crisis to impose ever-tighter controls on ordinary people. In this case, the aim is literally to clamp electronic fetters around their necks.

Swedish hygiene products company Essity has sparked widespread criticism in France for having planned to equip its workers with collars or belts that would ring if they are too near to each other, in an effort aimed at avoiding COVID-19 infections. The plan was touted as a way to “reinforce the safety of collaborators” by limiting “transmission of the virus as much as possible.”

Essity, which specializes in products such as diapers, toilet paper, make-up remover cotton pads, compression stockings and other paramedical goods, has units in over 100 countries, with eight factories and over 2,800 employees in France alone. All of these would be concerned by the measure. Its initiative garnered a great deal of attention in major media outlets, while commentators on social media angrily described the “social distancing devices” as dog collars.

Trade union CFDT compared the collars to “a system used to dissuade dogs from barking,” and slammed the “infantilization” the device would entail.

Special collars are indeed used to stop dogs from barking, using an electric impulse. The collars or belts with which the management of Essity wants to equip its workforce would emit a noise or a signal if two workers come too close together.

According to Mark Specque, communications director of Essity for Southern Europe, the company has opted for a vibration sign in case of non-compliance with the 2-meter rule adopted by its production sites in France, instead of an 85-decibel beep (the decibel level of a noisy restaurant), as was originally announced by the press.

Other options include a light signal and a digital emission — the latter would be adopted by Essity in order to track and trace potential “contact cases” of COVID-19 positive workers. This works by centralizing information about times, places and duration of excessive physical proximity. Oddly, the company’s management said all data would be anonymous, as the devices would only bear a number, while at the same time announcing that the same data would allow warning people at risk after having come too close to an infected colleague. “Big Brother” would have to be watching them after all.

In another attempt to downplay the inhuman aspects of this type of surveillance in the workplace, spokesman Mark Specque said: “It will be possible to carry the device in a pocket or attached to your belt, instead of around your neck.” Which is but small consolation.

Besides, that a major company should aim to put in place this kind of digital observation device could very well be a foretaste of things to come on a larger scale for the general public. If it can be done under the pretext of sanitary safety, why not use the technology in the streets, shops and other public places?

The widespread concern over Essity’s “dogwatch” plan in France will at least have shown that public irritation against COVID-19 measures is being voiced even in the mainstream media, which to date have been mostly docile in presenting successive, and sometimes contradictory government decisions to quash infections.