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Ear to the Ground

The French Sure Know How to Strike

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Posted on Oct 21, 2010
AP / Francois Mori

Students shout slogans against the French government’s plan to raise the retirement age during a demonstration in Paris on Thursday. The poster reads “Sarko-Fillon, Breakers of Society”—referring to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his camp are trying to keep their cool and push on with a vote on pension reform that would change France’s official retirement age, but the opposition isn’t backing down. In fact, labor unions have set aside two more days to strike—Oct. 28 and Nov. 6—and in the meantime, everyone from school kids to transportation workers is doing his or her part to make things difficult for the government.  —KA

The Washington Post:

Unions vowed that their striking workers would keep disrupting rail and road transportation. Teenagers marched through the streets and pledged to go on boycotting their schools. The government, trying to appear unfazed, urged Parliament to ignore the chaos and speed up the vote on a bitterly contested pension reform.

France remained stuck Thursday in what has become a major test of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative presidency—the turmoil caused by a nationwide strike and protest movement that has maintained its momentum well into a second month.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, October 23, 2010 at 3:03 am Link to this comment

NO PAIN, NO GAIN

Rob: Pretty sad how the most we can drum up here in America is the lunatic Tea Party…

Of course we can do better. Starting small with a Social Democrat Party faction (of the established Dem Paryt) unlinked to BigMoney. That’s the hard part.

It would require that we get off our duffs and organize one – instead of bitching-in-a-blog.

No pain, no gain.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, October 23, 2010 at 2:19 am Link to this comment

JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM

las: I’ve heard that the French are angry at their government for generously bailing out French banks during the credit crisis and then trying to practice financial discipline by cutting back on state pensions.

You’ve heard wrong. The bail-out was not a serious issue. And the French government is not cutting back on pensions, simply asking the French to work longer – the retirement age is being extended from 60 to 62 years for full retirement pension. What is it stateside, 65 years? (It is 68 in Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe.)

You should also know the following:
-  The Socialist French government reduced the work week to 35 hours, thus torpedoing it economic productivity.
-  The French, with four-week vacations, work the least number of hours of any developed European nation.
-  The French start their careers, after university, five years later than they do in the US (28 versus 23 years of age).
-  The French government borrows 1.5 million Euros a month simply to sustain its retirement fund.
-  That to continue the pension fund as it is would impose an increase in taxes; which would impact mostly the young whose Disposable Income would reduce and therefore their standard of living.

And despite these facts, the French support 70% this strike.

Americans can and should not understand the French attitude, in this particular case. What is being demonstrated is a fundamental difference, between America and France, in the attitude towards work.

IMHO, the French have never demonstrated to me, and I have lived in Europe for more than four decades, any real liking for work. They take it as a necessary evil, whereas Americans almost accept it as a recreational sport.

POST SCRIPTUM

And yet, on the whole, I feel the French have a better lifestyle than Americans due to other factors that enter into consideration. Work is just one – and if the French are not workaholics, they tend to form and maintain solid family relationships that endure. Can we say the same about America’s nuclear family?

Health care and Education are two others, but that is a subject for another day.

I have always said, “Paradise is where you work like the Yanks and live like the French”. And I can find, if need be, thousands upon thousands of Americans who live in France who would agree. (We are estimated to be between 110 and 150 thousand.)

And, as regards work, it is not so much that Americans work harder, but work smarter than a great many other nations. They are also more flexible in terms of employment mobility than Europeans.

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By lasmog, October 22, 2010 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

I’ve heard that the French are angry at their government for generously bailing out French banks during the credit crisis and then trying to practice financial discipline by cutting back on state pensions. I haven’t heard this perspective in the American mass media; all I’ve heard is the usual American refrain that the French our spoiled and lazy.

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Robespierre115's avatar

By Robespierre115, October 22, 2010 at 6:01 am Link to this comment

Long Live the French Workers!

The people have the right to rebel!

Pretty sad how the most we can drum up here in America is the lunatic Tea Party…

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, October 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment

Vive la Revolution!

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