19 October 2010

Today's bulletin

It's a little early to know what the situation for travelers and commuters in France is going to be like today. Yesterday a friend said there were 30 cars in line for gasoline or diesel fuel at the SuperU gas pumps in Saint-Aignan. Our region is supposed to be one of those least affected by the fuel shortages.

Another friend said the garagiste in a village south of here wasn't willing to sell more than 10 euros' worth of diesel to any one customer. You know that's not much, with the gallon going for the equivalent of seven U.S. dollars or so.

Today might be the critical point in this whole showdown between the government and the labor unions over retirement pension reforms. It's the sixth journée de mobilisation in just a few weeks. If participation in demonstrations and marches starts to trail off, the government will be able to hold firm. If the size of the crowds continues to grow, all bets are off.

Walt and I are hunkered down. We don't need to go anywhere. We are waiting to see whether the porteuse de pain, the bread lady, will come by this morning. But it doesn't matter — we have bread, butter, milk, flour, sugar, and wine to last for a few days — not to mention all the garden produce that we have in freezer. It's not unusual for us to go 4 or 5 days without once taking the car out of the driveway.

Here are some tidbits from the news yesterday and this morning:
  • Sales in French service stations have been up 50% over average levels since the fuel shortages became news — at least the ones that aren't à sec. That, in part, is why there are shortages.
  • Some fuel storage depots around the country are still being blockaded by workers, but the government is try to keep them open, saying workers have the right to strike and demonstrate but not to blockade critical facilities.
  • Fuel shortages (especially diesel) are worse in the west — Brittany, Pays de la Loire — and in Normandy, Provence, and the Ile de France (Paris area). Central France and the Southwest are less affected.
  • About 1000 of the 13,000 or so service stations in France were experiencing some shortages yesterday, and some are totally closed down. The government says there is plenty of fuel in storage to keep France moving for several weeks. It's just a matter of getting it delivered to the service stations.
  • Hundreds (out of many thousands) of high schools and some universities have been closed down by demonstrating students. Hooligans have taken advantage of the situation to vandalize shops and street fixtures (bus stops, things like that). Several hundred so-called casseurs were arrested across France yesterday.
  • According to polls, 71% of the French people say they feel sympathetic toward the strikers. People seems to be saying that the retirement pension system definitely needs reforming, but they feel that the measures currently being debated and voted on in the French parliament and senate are not satisfactory. They want new reform proposals. The government says it's too late for new proposals, and doesn't seem ready to back down.


  1. Being on the verge of retirement myself, I find this all very interesting. Although I am younger than the proposed retirement age in France, I don't find it outrageous to consider raising the retirement age as life expectancy is longer now.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but there is a fundamental difference between France and the US. Here they dispose of older workers "at will". In France, one may work pretty much as long as they wish. It seems like the French wish they could retire sooner and in the US many people wish (or need)to work longer.

  2. i havent been affected here in paris (yet)....we saw the tail end of a demonstration over the weekend....i wouldnt mind being stuck here for a while....i will be using the metro today and havent heard of any special probs...so i'll see how it goes...i guess if the cheese cant be delivered, then i'll complain

  3. I have nothing to add to the debate (except that this is exactly what Sarko was voted in to do).

    However, word verification is Costki. You can make up your own jokes...

    (then I typed in "costki) incorrectly and got "lyzes". Same routine applies...)

  4. Cheryl, you're up late! It's true that it's harder to let employees go here in France, but it certainly happens. And it's very difficult for somebody over, say, 55, to find a new job, from what I hear. I'm sure most people would agree that it is not really outrageous to raise the retirement age by two years -- but who wants to give up benefits late in the game. I read that many in the U.S. want to raise the retirement age for full benefits to 70 now.

    Melinda, from what I've been hearing the metro and buses have been running pretty much normally in Paris, as you seem to be saying. Some RER problems though, but unless you're going to the suburbs (commuting) not such a big deal.

    Simon, LOL. Sarko was voted in by 52% of the voters, so the other 48%, who voted for the Socialist candidate, still think they have something to say about policy, I guess.

  5. BTW, the bread lady just came by. She said that the boulanger had been able to find enough diesel fuel to get them through a week of deliveries. When I mentioned that somebody said there were 30 cars waiting for fuel at the SuperU pumps yesterday, she said, yes, she knew. And SuperU had run out of diesel fuel fairly early in the day, according to her. She's my source of gossip.

  6. The cultural inclination for public demonstration

    Is a very, very Frankish sort of thing

    But the US and the UK lack the Bastille motivation

    So we simply view it as a childish fling

    -Anonymous at 4AM

  7. I was young in 1968 but these strikes remind me of that era.

  8. Bravo for the bread lady! I hope things settle down soon.

    I don't like it when people start hoarding gas and food, making it tough on those left without (the exception of course is the bread lady;) who is keeping you and others supplied.

  9. Isn't that your house?
    The TV here in Paris has bee showing very long lines trying to get into the stations while there is gas to be bought. A lot of stations have run out.

  10. Oh, and we can testify that there has been o problem with the buses and, except for the first couple days of the strike, very few problems with the métro.

  11. Ken, Once again you are a vital link in keeping us advised re the situation with fuel. We are currently in Menerbes in Provence and we are limiting our travel today as we are cognisant of the truck drivers and the unexpected arrangements re roadblocks. Rousillon was a pleasant diversion for us today but Lacoste was a little disappointing. Glad to hear that you and Walt are set for the seige should fuel be completely unobtainable.

  12. I wouldn't want to be in a situation when I would have to return a rental car at the airport and find out that I can't fill up ......

  13. We have a rental car and are considering turning it in at the nearest Europcar centre if we can't get fuel. We have just over 700 kilometres of fuel left but a return trip of almost 1200 kilometres. Fuel will be restored soon, we hope.

  14. Today, the little gas station in Lourmarin looked to be open for business with no lines. There were 3 or four cars lined up at each pump at the Super U in Lauris.

    For me, worst case is that I turn in my car Sunday at the airport in Marseille and pay the outrageous charge for not returning it filled up. I have no doubt that the 3/4 tank I still have will get me until then.

    I do hope this situation clears up soon for those who are being seriously inconvenienced.

  15. We had the same discussion here in the Netherlands, the retirement age went up from 65 to 67. The only difference... no strikes. People who are now 45 can retire at 67, people over 45 still can retire at 65. Who knows what the government will do in twenty years time...


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