14 December 2019

Mardi prochain — dans la rue ?

Next Tuesday will be an interesting day. Now that the French government has brought up the question of raising the retirement age for those who want to collect a full pension from 62 to 64, the weekly demonstrations in Paris will draw even bigger crowds, I think. Even though this is December and the weather is pretty lousy. Here's a slide show that will give you an idea what it might look like. These are pictures I took in Paris in April a dozen years ago when other issues were roiling the country.

Yesterday turned out to be a sunny, breezy day. One storm moved off to the east as another approached from the west, and we got lucky. The wind howled all night long and the house feels chilly. I hope the weather settles down soon. And the political situation too. Half (or fewer) of the regularly scheduled trains are running across the country, including high-speed TGVs, and about half the Paris Métro (subway) lines are completely shut down. It's a mess. Tuesdays are the big day for demonstrations and protests, but the strikes go on daily.


  1. Is it going to be a repeat of 1968?

  2. According to this morning's news, only 25% of the TGVs are running today, and only 20% of the InterCité mainline trains are running. I didn't hear anything about the Paris Métro. I just saw on the internet that the RATP is closing all metro stations today outside the hours of 12 noon and 6 p.m. Even during those hours, not many trains will be running. People are getting worried about travel around the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays.

  3. Thanks for posting on this Ken. There's virtually no coverage of it on US news. I guess since we are embroiled in our own "stuff." I keep thinking of the movie "The Exorcist." Maybe we need one.

    1. Strikes in France. Dog bites man. Those things aren't news, I guess, unless you happen to live in France and don't often encounter dogs. The noontime news is coming on right now, so we'll see what's going on. We are lucky that we aren't really affected by the strikes at this point in our lives.

  4. So much to say about this.
    First, I have been almost completely unaffected. This is one of those big city problems. I was held up for 10 minutes (10 minutes!!!!) in a traffic jam because strikers were blocking a main street in front of the courthouse on Thursday. The number of strikers in the street was a handful, vs. the number of people trying to drive around them. The concern now is gas for the car, because of blockages of petroleum facilities, but that happened exactly a year ago and I never had a problem...even after the Gilets Jaunes burned several gas stations in town.
    The special regimes affect only 3.4% of French workers. So demographics are against the strike. Most people think the special regimes with early retirement should be eliminated, especially those that might have been physically taxing or dangerous 50 years ago but are neither today (cheminots).
    We have a friend who is a cheminot. He says he signed a contract when he started working to retire at age 60. I pointed out that when he signed this contract, life expectancy for men was 70; now it's 78. Was he willing to keep up his part of the contract and die at 70? He sputtered--this is all about magouiller--getting around things, pulling a fast one.
    Young people should be out in the streets demanding that people work longer. Otherwise, there will be "point"--zilch--for them when it's their turn. The big fear (and as a 59-year-old applying for jobs I can attest to) is that everybody realizes that it's harder than ever to work longer unless you're self-employed. Hit 55, or even less, and you're likely to be laid off. And nobody will hire you. So even those who want to work longer can't do it. This is the real problem.
    Well, actually, the real problem is the special regimes who don't want to give up their VIP status. Per usual. No sympathy here.

    1. Several points:

      If the number of workers who benefit from special retirement "regimes" is so small, why doesn't the government just leave well enough alone?

      The other day a labor union leader was interviewed on TV and asked why, when people are living so much longer than they used to, they shouldn't be required to work longer as well. The union leader looked stunned: the reason people are living longer is that they don't have to work until their lives are almost over!

      And the point about unemployment rates among people who are called séniors in French is well taken. So instead of paying retirement pensions to such people, the government will have to pay them unemployment benefits. Isn't that called a no-win situation?

      I don't agree with the gilets jaunes, that's for sure. Their program aims to lower taxes on petroleum products so that everybody can drive more, and raise speed limits so that everybody can drive faster and faster. All leading two worse and worse congestion and pollution, not to mention highway fatalities.

      Finally, sometimes it feels like the people running the government are doing their best to kill off the railways. Service is being reduced. Railway workers are pissed off. Soon, there will be no alternative to driving cars, and the roads will be completely "saturated," with longer and longer traffic jams. The other days there were three hundred miles of backups around Paris because people couldn't get into the city by train. This way is folly.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?