07 September 2010

Not retiring when it comes to strikes

Today is a big strike today in France. It's all about government proposals to revise French retirement plans, mostly by requiring people to work longer before they qualify for a government pension. Similar plans and policies are being imposed in the U.S., with this difference: in France, the retirement age is currently 60 rather than 62 or 66.

In order to collect a decent pension, of course, you have to have worked for many years in France before the age of 60. For example, I learned a few years ago that I am eligible for such a pension, on the basis of the few years I worked as an English teacher in Paris. At age 60, I could have started collecting about 25 euros a month. At age 65, however, that pension will pay me about 125 euros per month. I'm waiting to take it then.

Warning: this is one of those posts where the pictures
have nothing to do with the text. This is the cathedral
in Noyon, which I
posted about a few days ago.

The labor unions that play the biggest role in organizing these kinds of protests against government policies and plans are hoping that as many as two million people will turn out to march and demonstrate. The government minister who is responsible for negotiating with the unions on retirement pension issues is involved in a scandal involving one of the wealthiest people in France, for whom he has allegedly done numerous political and financial favors. In other words, he's in a weakened position.

In the cathedral at Noyon

In addition, many in France are upset over the current government's hard-line positions on law-and-order issues. These include this summer's crackdown on Romanian and Bulgarian gypsies, who are being deported for violating the terms of their entry visas.


Catholic leaders have spoken out loudly about the deportation, saying the poorest people are being targeted. Incidents like the July riots in Grenoble and Saint-Aignan have increased tensions between those who believe the government is right to take a hard line and those who think the government has gone too far.

I posted a close-up of this trompe-l'œil floor in the
Noyon cathedral a couple of days ago.

Today's strike means that train and metro service is reduced by half. Rather than fight the crowds packing Paris metro stations or waiting for a seat on a commuter train, a lot of people just take the day off and stay home. The whole country slows down. Bus and tram service in many other cities around France also operates on a reduced schedule.

La cathédrale de Noyon

In a little town like Saint-Aignan, and out in the country, about the only effect of the strike is on radio and television programming. If you turn on France Inter radio, the equivalent of NPR, you hear only music all day, with none of the regular programs and no news or weather reports.

The floor in a side chapel at Noyon cathedral

It wouldn't be a good day to be arriving in Paris, or trying to leave. As a tourist, however, it might be a nice day for a walking tour around the city. I haven't heard whether museum guards and other staff are out on strike or not.


  1. This year while in Paris, we experienced a strike with the railways - fortunately it was the following day that we were booked on the TGV for Tours to say hello to WCS and good friends Carole & Mikee. We don't seem to have many stikes in Melbourne these days but I must admit that we do have a reasonable life generally.
    BTW, we now finally have our federal elections resolved with our first formally elected female Prime Minister.

  2. Ahh, it's also Tuesday, so most national museums, like the Louvre, are closed because that's their day to be closed.

  3. Also, I love the trompe l'oeil floor at the Noyon cathedral. Haven't been there in ages and your pictures have given us another destination. Of course, St. Aignan is also on our list as a destination. We were supposed to get down to Larçay some time this summer and had hoped to drop in on you (with notice, but summer has flown by.

  4. So THAT'S what that was! I looked at that close-up of the floor for quite a while trying to figure it out.

  5. Noyons is a place I'd like to see someday- that floor is quite unusual.

    The natives are restless in France and the US too. The baby boomers are going to cost the governments lots of money and where to get it is the problem.

    I don't think punishing the immigrants is going to work, but I suppose the politicians are just using them to get votes.

  6. There was a good article in the LA Times sunday about Sarkozy versus the Romano. A gentleman from Bangladesh commented and I agreed with him 100 %. Times have changed and it is not the same world it used to be so the Gypsies have to change their old ways and start educating their children. (But maybe they are also ahead of us as one day we might all become beggars).
    The change in retirement age in France is not that old. As long as I can remember, it used to be either 62 or 65.

  7. Ken, the pic of the floor in the chapel is STUNNING! wow! great work.

    glad that Bertie came back, i'm sure it was a worrisome time. maybe he flew to NZ to warn your friend's cats to head for the hills until the earthquake was over!?

    wasnt that something?? as an ex-Cali person i'm sure you are wondering where the next earthquake will be. when i lived in seattle we know we'd get hit within a few months of japan having one. out here in the midwest we dont really worry about them tho. just tornadoes, for heavens sakes.

  8. Ken, please tell us what you know about the ancient timber-frame building attached to the cathedral at Noyons.
    Libbie in New Bern

  9. Those interior shots of the cathedral are simply stunning. What an amazing piece of building work that is.

  10. Hi Libbie and all, see my post today (08 September 2010) for a little more information about Noyon and that half-timbered building attached to the cathedral.

  11. Hi Nadège, I think it was under the socialist governments of President Mitterrand that the retirement age in France was lowered from either 65 or 62 to 60. That would have been 30 years ago. Workers also have to have contributed to the retirement system for 162 quarters (trimesters) or 40+ years to get a full pension. In my case, I worked in France for only 2 or 3 years, so my pension is very small. The important thing about it for me is that it means I am vested in the system and can qualify for the national health insurance. I now contribute to that system, but the contribution is less than I would pay for private insurance.

  12. Well the UK are trying to push the age up even higher than 65.. Don't think we will be able to retire at this rate.

    I was in the Cahors area for a while and luckily I had a train booked to leave Cahors on the 6th September . arriving in Paris at 18.45pm .. made it to my friends in the 16th arrondissment :-) the next day was fine for me , weather was great and just walked to meet my other friends.


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