Black Tuesday in France

Nov 20th, 2007, 06:09 AM
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Black Tuesday in France

NPR's Eleanor Beardsley had an informative report on Black tuesday as it seems many are calling today's spate of strikes, in addition to the ongoing transportation strike, lingering on for a week now and no end in sight

I don't know whether she's got it right or not but she's a veteran Paris correspondent: (Paraphrasing)

'5,000,000" civil workers on a one day strike today and today only i guess protesting Sarkozy's wish to make them work longer to get pensions'

About the transport strike - she says only 18% of the unions are causing the prblem as others have or would settle

she says this radical 18% seems bent on stringing out the confrontation - calling it 'the third round' of the Presidential election - thus could be a problem for a long long time

this radical part could care less about public inconvenience and in fact may welcome chaos - to defeat Sarkozy at any cost.

Sarkozy, Eleanor says is laying low - having his assistant take the brunt of criticism

Thus travel in France carries a great uncertainty for maybe weeks to come?
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 01:39 AM
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Actually, it may not be as bad as you think.

My wife is a civil servant - they have virtually 100% attendance; she works in an area employing several thousand. My post arrived OK. Many transport workers are going back to work and the service is improving. Commuter traffic has been normal here.

Remember union membership is very small in France

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mpprh is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 07:40 AM
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thanks peter

my son's mother, a bibilotequaire, was on strike yesterday

but appears the massive strike did not materilaize

PalenQ is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 07:41 AM
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come to think of it a lot of civil servants probably could go on strike and no one would ever know it
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 07:44 AM
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Just like in any country, many civil servants would be a laughing stock if they went on strike -- tax collectors, meter maids, traffic fine processing centers, etc.
kerouac is online now  
Nov 21st, 2007, 07:55 AM
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cheminots? too
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 08:57 AM
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It only takes a few strikers in France to make a good strike, and they have made an art of it. That's why people think that France is on strike all the time and that unions are powerful. Meanwhile, France is the least unionized industrialized country of the world, and we have not had a major transportation strike since 1995 (that was a good one!). But you only have to press your finger on a few sores to make everybody say 'ouch'!
kerouac is online now  
Nov 21st, 2007, 09:30 AM
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then why has the government capitulated or at least i have the impression that they did for decades

I was under the impression that though France had relatively low union membership that the public support for them was quite high

I mean if truckers blocked the roads or rails in USA the national guard would be out there moving them off the arteries in minutes. But the French seem to have put up with this in the past - yes a few strikers with a huge impact

Apparently the public mood that i had perceived at least has changed and reforms are finally coming

which i think is too bad - working longer, etc., but with globalization unfortunately un-practical

my ex-wife is a librarian and says they should not have to work longer before pension - but even though she acknowledges that there will be not enough money in the pension if they retire early as now she still maintains her stance.
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 10:35 AM
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Sarkozy has been whipping up "anti-privilege" psychosis (after having his salary increased 172%) and it still works to a certain extent.

The problem is that one of his big reform slogans was "work more and earn more" and this plan for public sector workers is "work more and earn less". The government is already backing down and has promised to raise the public sector salaries, but don't breathe a word of this to anyone, because we are supposed to believe that the new policy has remained rigid.
kerouac is online now  
Nov 21st, 2007, 11:56 AM
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In fact, the work more, earn more applies to the civil service. My wife tells me that they can now be paid for 4 days of overtime per year. She currently has 25 days from 2007.

An interesting report :

PARIS (Reuters) - Saboteurs staged a coordinated attack on France's high-speed rail network early on Wednesday, causing nationwide delays to services already hit by an eight-day transport strike, the SNCF state railways said.

The pre-dawn attack on signaling connections targeted the four main TGV train services out of Paris before government, management and unions resumed negotiations on ending the dispute over pension reform.

A senior SNCF executive blamed militant strikers for the damage and President Nicolas Sarkozy called for crack police teams to be dispatched to hunt down the culprits.

"Those responsible for these acts of sabotage no doubt believed they could interrupt the negotiations and the return to work that is under way at the SNCF," Prime Minister Francois Fillon told parliament.

"Well, I'm telling them they are very much mistaken."

Unions condemned the attacks and said there was no proof any of their members had been involved.

The pensions showdown is the biggest challenge Sarkozy has faced since taking office in May and his government fears its credibility would be destroyed if it gives in to the unions.

Only a minority of railway workers remained on strike, with the SNCF reporting that 77.2 percent of its staff had turned up to work on Wednesday against 73 percent on Tuesday.

The SNCF said it hoped to run two out of three high-speed TGV trains on Thursday, an increase on past days. Services on suburban trains and Paris's metro remained disrupted.


Government, unions and management started negotiations at SNCF and the RAPT Paris transport company, which has also been seriously affected by the strike.

Unionists vote on Thursday to decide whether to continue the strike. But there was little hope of a definite resolution until the middle of December and Didier Le Reste, head of the powerful CGT union's rail division said the talks would take time.

"It's not Didier Le Reste who's going to decide," he told reporters before the meeting. "There'll be democratic debates in the local committees," he said.

Sarkozy said on Tuesday he would not renounce the core element of his pension reform, which entails an end to early retirement rights for transport and energy workers, but indicated he was ready to make concessions in other areas.

The head of France's business lobby said on Wednesday the dispute was causing "incalculable" damage to the economy.

An opinion poll published in the conservative Le Figaro newspaper on Wednesday gave Sarkozy a boost, saying 68 percent of people thought the transport strike was not justified.

The last time a government tried to reform the pension privileges was in 1995, but it had to backtrack in the face of nationwide stoppages and public sympathy for the strikers.

In a separate dispute, teachers, postal workers and civil servants returned to work after a one-day strike on Tuesday called to protest against the government's economic program. They have promised further stoppages in the months ahead.

Tobacco shop owners also took to the street on Wednesday, protesting against a smoking ban in bars due next year and many universities were disrupted by protests over education reform.

mpprh is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 12:36 PM
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In terms of "work more, earn more" I was referring to the fact that public sector workers earn less than private sector workers. If the system is to become fair, their salaries must be raised immediately if their retirement plan is to be the same as the private sector.

And as for those who don't think that public sector workers work enough or are already paid excessively, I always wonder why so few people choose to work in the public sector if the advantages are so extraordinary.
kerouac is online now  
Nov 21st, 2007, 12:42 PM
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Interesting that the SNCF is so quick to blame strikers for the sabotage. I thought that "à qui profite le crime?" was the first question to ask in such cases, as the truth is often found in a completely different direction.

Maybe they don't watch Cold Case or CSI enough in France.
analogue is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 12:46 PM
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I think, judging by my son and his family, that many think the public sector does not work hard enough - true or not it seems

and train workers seem to get the most scorn

son is fond of saying (and i'm not sure he's right) about the 35 hour work week insituted several years ago - that the average SNCF worker was only working 28 hours or so and would actually have to work more under the 35 hour week!

and the old joke he tells andi've told perhaps too many times about SNCF workers
--- three kids were talking about what their daddies did and when they got home

one said my dad's a banker and gets off work at 7pm and is home by 8

another says my dad's a teacher and gets off work at 6pm and is home by 7

the third says my Dad works for the SNCF and he gets off work at 6pm and is home by 3

I think the perception of public sector workers not only in France but many countries may be that they don't work as hard as the private sector, true or not
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2007, 05:05 AM
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Latest :

Reuters - 1 hour 45 minutes ago

PARIS (Reuters) - French commuters faced another day of transport delays on Thursday, but an end to a rail strike now in its ninth day appeared to be in sight as many local union committees voted to return to work.

Nationwide rail services and Paris local transport lines ran at reduced capacity but workers in most local committees that met on Thursday voted to suspend their strike over President Nicola Sarkozy's plans to cut special pension benefits.

The dispute over the so-called "special pension regimes" has provided Sarkozy with his biggest challenge since coming to power in May on a pledge of sweeping economic reform.

Rail operator SNCF said 42 out of the 45 committees that met on Thursday morning voted to suspend the stoppages, adding to confidence that the standoff was nearing resolution.

"According to initial returns from the general assemblies, it should be heading towards a return to work," Daniel Tourlan, an official at the powerful CGT union said in Marseille.

"We're heading towards a suspension, it's only the form of action that's changing, the determination of the rail workers is intact," he said.

The SNCF says support for the strike is dwindling. More trains and Paris metro services were running on Thursday than earlier this week, though public transport still remained severely disrupted.

Public opinion has been firmly on the government's side in the dispute but widespread worries over the cost of living have put pressure on the government not to allow the dispute to escalate and get out of hand.

The protests reached a peak on Tuesday when civil servants staged a separate one-day strike over pay and job cuts and some civil service unions warned they might renew their protests next month.

Students in some universities and high schools have kept up their own demonstrations over education reforms and plan to hold rallies in several cities and in front of the oldest Paris university, the Sorbonne, later on Thursday.

Rail unions, which met SNCF management on Wednesday, are expected to continue talking for at least a month. Only the hard-line Sud Rail union has refused to take part.

The Paris transport authority RATP was due to hold talks with unions on Monday.

Sarkozy has vowed to stand firm over the central point of the dispute, scrapping a privilege that allowed some public transport workers to retire on a full pension after paying contributions for 2.5 years less than the norm of 40 years.

But the SNCF has offered some concessions such as including certain bonus payments in the calculation of pension rights or pay rises for those approaching retirement and union leaders said that some progress had been made.
mpprh is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2007, 07:21 AM
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And to think that somebody at Reuters gets paid to recycle again and again the exact same sentences! That's what I call 'not deserving your salary'.
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