Saturday, 24 November 2007

The Strike Wrap-Up

The transportation here is finally back to normal, it only took them 9 days, but by the 10th day the trains were almost back to normal, and I can't tell you what a relief that was! My first trip to work during the strike took more than 3 hours, I managed to get that down to just over 2 by the next day, but it still involved a tram, a metro, a train and then a bus to get to work, which is a lot different to rolling out of bed, crossing the road to catch a train and then a 10 minute bus because I don't want to walk up the hill to work.

It was absolute chaos on the metros and trams as well, I couldn't, physically, force myself onto some metros so had to just wait for the next one and hope that it would be slightly less packed. The police were having to cordon off platforms because they were so full that people were in danger of being pushed off onto the tracks. The one bright light during this strike was the number 14 metro, which was the only one running totally normally throughout the whole strike, for the simple reason that it is driven by a robot.

At the moment the workers and the government are in negotiations, but I don't hold out much hope that any solution will be found, so I'm sure that the strike will start up again at some point. I just hope that I'm back in Australia by the time it does. The word on the street is that the workers are going to leave it until Christmas before striking again, as that would cause maximum pain and suffering to us poor saps who use public transport.

In case you are interested, the reason why they were striking is that the government wants to raise the retiring age from 37.5 years of work, to 40 years of work. At the moment the rest of the public servants all have to work 40 years before they can retire on a full pension, but the transport workers can retire 2.5 years early and still receive a full pension. This is a throw-back to the steam age when being a transport worker was a dangerous and arduous job. Before the last presidential election Sarkozy went in saying he wanted to reform the pension system and the people still voted for him. So this last strike is different from the one in 1995, which was over the same issue, lasted for 3 weeks and was eventually won by the workers, in that the majority of the population disagrees with the transport workers.

This transport strike did encourage lots of other people to start striking as well, for different reasons, first was the public servants. Sarkozy calls the public servants lazy and inefficient and wants to not replace retiring public servants, which the current servants don't like. We also had university students on strike because the government want to encourage the universities to look for outside funding and finally, and perhaps just as devastating as the transport workers strike, was that the cafeteria workers at my work. At the moment the cafeteria is run by a non-profit association, but the university wants to sell it off to a private company, meaning my lunches will be a lot more expensive and a lot crappier. I love my cafeteria lunches, for less than 4 euros I get an entree, a hot main meal, a dessert and some fruit. The food quality is always really high and it is just great exposure to true French food everyday, so it would be a tragedy if they ever sell it to a private company. Really, when you think about it, it should be us academics how are striking as we would be the ones forced to eat crappy lunches, but I suppose the cafeteria workers are also worried about their jobs.

So all-in-all it was a pretty bizarre week, but I'm certainly getting to experience all things French, and there isn't much more French than a strike which completely shuts down the country.

1 comment:

Giles said...

You and the other academics could strike in sympathy for both the university students and the cafeteria workers!