Ontopic What would Americans think of the French Strike?

polo

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Good article.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/9118869.stm

What would Americans think of the French strike?

French workers on strike, Marseille, France
Over a million people have taken part in protests against pension reforms

By Matthew Price
BBC News, France

The widespread protests against the French government's plans to raise the age of retirement from 60 to 62 are part of a wider battle about the future of French society and how much the government spends to support the poor.

I am going through a little bit of culture shock.

For the last three years I have been based in the US. And the only protests I have covered, the only ones vocal enough to have been worth reporting on, have been angry mobs demanding the government stop spending and get out of their lives.

Now, just one week into my new role as Europe correspondent, I am faced with angry mobs demanding the exact opposite - an end to government cut backs and a promise that the state will continue to provide for them.

Talk about a change of scene.
Oil tankers queuing outside Marseille port, France
Oil tankers have been stranded outside Marseille for weeks

The Americans could never stomach - or indeed even understand - what has been happening in Marseille.

The stench of rotting oranges, old coffee grounds and the occasional soiled nappy, sticks in the nose as you walk through the narrow lanes of the old city.

And every day that the rubbish collectors remain on strike, the piles of overflowing black bags and cardboard boxes grow ever higher.

Wind your way past them and down to the port where 1,000 stylish yachts bob quietly, and look out across the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean, and you will see more evidence of these strikes - the oil tankers anchored offshore waiting for port workers to return to their posts.

Then there are the petrol stations - the bright red covers strapped over the pumps which tell you they are "hors service" - out of service.

Out of petrol to be more accurate. The strike is taking its toll.

Will the French people finally get back what the workers want - a government that sees its main purpose as being to look after the citizens?

But what Americans would also perhaps not understand, is how despite this slap in the collective face, everyday life is not on hold.

Basically, it is to be expected here.

"It's France - it's normal, huh?" one man shrugged before heading off back to work.

Another, having found a petrol station with supplies said he had to drive around the city a bit, but it was okay.

In fact, for a city that has been deemed the epicentre of French union militancy, there was not at first much evidence of it.

Yes, there was the rubbish, and the thought in the back of your mind that you might run out of petrol, but where were the picket lines?

Road blocks

For three glorious hours, I drove along the coast looking for strikers and watching the wind surfers zip across the sea.

At one junction leading to a fuel storage depot, a sun-tanned policeman and his swaggering colleagues told me there had been a protest earlier but they had closed it down.
Piled up rubbish in Marseille, France
Rubbish has been piling up on the streets of Marseille

Eventually I ended up at a Total refinery, which I knew to have been having problems.

Even here - no picket. Just the wind whipping across the massive empty car park out the front and a sign tied across the gates - "plant on strike".

The next day though came word of a shut down at the airport. Strikers had blocked the road to the terminal.

This sounded more like it. A proper bit of "argey bargey a la Francaise" surely?

Well, not by the time I had made it there.

Within an hour or so, the strikers had forced perhaps 100 or so people to abandon their hire cars a short walk from the terminal, and then cleared off.

Airport in disarray - job done.

'Personal responsibility'

Some hours later, I received a call from the main train station.

A group had plonked themselves on the tracks in front of a TGV bound for Paris.

They shouted for a bit, but again soon vanished. Lightning strikes, I guess you could call them.

PROPOSED PENSION REFORMS
Raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 by 2018
Raise the security contributions qualification from 40.5 to 41.5 years
Raise the age pensioners can receive a full state pension from 65 to 67

The big question, of course, is where all this is leading?

Is this indeed the big social movement that the unions say it is, a movement that in true revolutionary style will end with the overthrow of the court of Sarkozy?

Will the French people finally get back what the workers want - a government that sees its main purpose as being to look after the citizens?

My sense is the answer is twice, "Non".

And indeed, most French know the world has changed since the days of the all-embracing welfare state.

They know the age of austerity inevitably implies an age of personal responsibility.

And personal responsibility is something the Americans I have lived among for the last three years have adopted as a way of life.

I am reminded of a trip I took with a truck driver - named DuWayne - from Wisconsin. One thousand kilometres (600 miles) into an epic ride across the states, he mentioned the French lorry drivers' proclivity to strike.

"We'd never do that here," DuWayne proudly told me. "We work hard."

And it is true - they do.

One year he spent 352 days on the road, in order to pay the bills.

I told him that the French strike to protect their working conditions, which were far better than anything he had ever known.

He looked at me, shocked, as if to say, "You mean the French have it better than us?"
I don't know about you - more fucking power too them. At least they have balls.
 

tre

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Man, even the french over here love to strike.

Good for them - at least they're doing something to change their country, rather than just bitch about it.
 

dbzeag

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Good article.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/9118869.stm



I don't know about you - more fucking power too them. At least they have balls.
How is that when they aren't even SHOWING they are on strike? Work is still going on, life is still going on, it's just the streets are even smellier than before.

And boo fucking who about a retirement age elevating to 62 with the expectation that medical and even living expenses will be covered for the next 15+ years of your life by the government. I cannot access (without penalty) money I have saved up for myself until 70. I cannot gather a pension because I am lucky enough to work with a company that can provide one (extremely rare now) until 69.5. I cannot get SS (the retirement plan that France has basically, just far less) until after 67. And I am still responsible in part for my medical care after 70 and responsible for most if not all before then.

Nope, no patience for those millions on strike. It is just being lazy so as to silently protest having to be lazy at 60 instead of 62.
 

dbzeag

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Man, even the french over here love to strike.

Good for them - at least they're doing something to change their country, rather than just bitch about it.
By sitting there doing nothing? Do a strike, yes, but wouldn't it be more effective if some strikers made it known why they are striking? Wouldn't it be a good idea to make a good case for the strikers with the EU financial segment? Wouldn't it sway more government opinions if outside media was reporting on it more highly because it was advertised more highly by the strikers?

Instead people just aren't going to work to protest the fact they want to stop working altogether at 60 instead of 62.
 

polo

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Aug 1, 2007
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How is that when they aren't even SHOWING they are on strike? Work is still going on, life is still going on, it's just the streets are even smellier than before.

And boo fucking who about a retirement age elevating to 62 with the expectation that medical and even living expenses will be covered for the next 15+ years of your life by the government. I cannot access (without penalty) money I have saved up for myself until 70. I cannot gather a pension because I am lucky enough to work with a company that can provide one (extremely rare now) until 69.5. I cannot get SS (the retirement plan that France has basically, just far less) until after 67. And I am still responsible in part for my medical care after 70 and responsible for most if not all before then.

Nope, no patience for those millions on strike. It is just being lazy so as to silently protest having to be lazy at 60 instead of 62.
The widespread protests against the French government's plans to raise the age of retirement from 60 to 62 are part of a wider battle about the future of French society and how much the government spends to support the poor.
 

water

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What do you expect from a country that was essentially taken over by a bunch of Muslim students who were pissed off about some perceived offense?
 

dbzeag

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Jun 9, 2006
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Publicizing what those battles are might be useful. And how is a protest of workers fighting for the retirement age raising (which I think should happen as life expectancies have been rising) mean anything to the government support of the poor? The poor don't have jobs. How does a protest about workers matter to the poor who don't have jobs to begin with? If the protest is that workers are concerned their money is going to pay for poor people and if they have to work 2 more years to take on more support for more poor people, they should be lucky it isn't 70 like it is in the US right now and that they are in a society that covers every citizen, poor or rich or working or protesting. If they don't like it, they can stop working (which they have already done) and stop using government services (which they have not done).
 

dbzeag

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Rather than be lazy, they could also vote differently. Or promote candidates that share their views and advertise them more. Having a short career length and even short work days/years is already a gift. Being that petty to just stop working those reduced hours already is pathetic. If they are really heated up about a cause, do something about it.
 

Sarcasmo

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Oh no! They want us to work for two more years when we should realistically expect to be able to spend a quarter of our lives doing absolutely nothing!
 

dbzeag

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I wonder if we have a bureau there I can transfer to :drool:
My company does :cool:

True real equality for all citizens, earlier retirement, workdays regulated to 40 hour weeks, 6 weeks vacation + 18 federal holidays and free medical care. Sign me up.
 

Coqui

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Publicizing what those battles are might be useful. And how is a protest of workers fighting for the retirement age raising (which I think should happen as life expectancies have been rising) mean anything to the government support of the poor?
All their required social security taxes (or whatever they are called there) go to supporting the poor instead of supporting the elderly
 

dbzeag

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All their required social security taxes (or whatever they are called there) go to supporting the poor instead of supporting the elderly
Well if they continue the strike long enough, they will realize they could just stop working completely and still get medical help and other support. Like the welfare system here, they will learn not to even bother trying to work again.