these grèves are a real grievance

I saw two rainbows this week. My first one was in Paris as I was walking around the Jardin des Tulieries (near the Louvre and the Musee d’Orangerie) this weekend. I saw another one today. I didn’t expect it at all; it’s a lovely day in Lyon –63 degrees after a week of being in the low 50s! But there were a few clouds in the sky over the port on my walk to the metro. When I looked carefully I saw a beautiful rainbow peaking out of the clouds. 🙂

a student protester in Lyon, courtesy of the New York Times

I think it’s time to talk about the French penchant for striking. I have put off talking about this because I keep thinking that the strikes are almost over. But it seems that they will be continuing until next week and beyond, so why wait any longer? Many people have been asking me what on earth is going on in France. My answer to that is simple. President Nicholas Sarkozy wants to revolutionize the French retirement system by increasing the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 (and the full benefits age from 65 to 67). Thus, all hell has broken loose. The common transport systems in all major cities – bus, metro, trams – have had reduced service for multiple days, SNCF (the national railway system) is on a continuous strike, and the latest word is that workers have blocked the fuel delivery system causing a mad increase in gas/diesel prices. My trip to Paris last weekend, thankfully, was not canceled last weekend due to the strikes. That said, both of the trains for the round trip were delayed.

Needless to say, this is all very annoying.

The youth in France have also taken to the cause, which analysts say is surprising because teens and twenty-somes are so far from retirement. They say that this affects their future because 1. now they will have to work longer, but 2. this affects their job prospects since the elderly have to work an extra two years, preventing job turnover. The strikes have progressed from peaceful protesting to quite dangerous demonstrations that involve the police coming in with full force. Many teens here are disrupting the public squares and robbing stores that they have broken into. Lyon has been featured on national news along with Paris and Marseille in terms of how much damage has been done to public areas.

It’s pretty interesting to hear what people here think of this whole mess. Many people agree with me that the French are just lazy and need to suck it up, but there are some who astutely believe that their “right” is to work 35 hour weeks, have 5 weeks of paid vacation a year, AND enjoy the benefits of early retirement. I don’t understand the French. They have one of the youngest retirement ages, ever, and people nowadays live way way past their 70s and 80s. What gives?

Luckily, I am safe, even if the youth are rioting in the middle of Lyon and destroying stores and merchandise. Indeed, I am enjoying my first hand account of the French national sport – striking.

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One thought on “these grèves are a real grievance

  1. […] 3. Most controversial post: Greves (strikes) in France. […]

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