Greetings from strike-ridden France, currently in partial paralysis due to a slew of strikes, to protest the goverment’s proposed hike in the retirement age from 60 to 62. Never mind that 1/3 of the countryis already ‘en retrait’ due to a wonderfully generous social system. Many French feel that this is the skinny side of the wedge that will totally break apart the social system and leave the French ‘like les americains’, with social services only at the mercy of their employers. And we all read about the unemployment rates in both France and the US these days…
So, while I’m relatively unaffected, utilising primarily public transportation, which uses nuclear-generated electricity, my poor mother, who lives in what we all politely refer to as ‘la France profond’, deeply depends on her car to get around, as her village only has 5 houses, and since the gas crisis caused by the stikes, is not currently visited by the bread man nor the grocery truck, forcing her to drive about 12km to the nearest town to her shopping.
Say what you will about the government of Nicholas Sarkozy, but they’re probably right in raising the retirement age. At the rate that retirement and social benefits are being paid out here, the system is already so broke that it’s become a large part of the EU’s contribution to France.
So, if you’re a Welsh coal miner, you can thank your goverment from keeping the UK out of the EU, but if you’re cleaning toilets in, say, some Dresden tourist hotel, I apoligise for the dent my cousin Benoit’s recent spa visit (I believe he had a hangnail) put in your taxes.
Back to the current crisis: The supply chain is beginning to break down. My favourite cafe was low on butter the other day because of problems getting the delivery in to the distributor from Normandie, where most French butter is produced (or so the pundits claim).
And at my local Casino (the French supermarket chain, not the gambling hall), there were various shortages, although all the staples, such as wine, cheese, and Orangina (for which I have a hopeless addition) where thankfully in abundance.
My friend Olivier, who is part owner of a family Fiat dealership, says that sales have definitely dropped since ‘le crise’ began, but holds out hope that thongs of buyers will jam the dealership once this has all worn off.
So who IS striking and protesting these days? Interestingly, I was watching the news the other night, and they had an interview with one striker, a 14 ye ar old student who planned to major in medecine at university. His concern was that if they forced more people to remain on the job by raising the retirement age, people like him wouldn’t be able to find work until they were ‘too old’ to build a career. Imagine: a country with an abundance of unemployed physicians. Instead of Medecins sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders), there could be a new society: Medecins sans Emploi (Doctors without Jobs).
Gotta run. There’s a demonstration at a nearby park and I hear they’re handing out free samples of something. What it is isn’t important…it’s FREE!