The heat is on in the whole of France. I mean we know those guys can strike.. but this time around the French people are really striking.
I have seen strikes in France. Employees who are striking against their management for salary increase or to demand one or more considerations are the workplace. Most recently the strikes were because of relocations, closures and mergers! This one, people were angry because they were losing their jobs. So they are striking 'to be able to remain on the job'.
But this one of this week, folks are striking to be able to "stop working".
And they are not striking against an employer, but against the government! No, in fact, it is against the law makers. The people voted to carry the voice of the people! C'est bizarre, non?
The bone of contention is retirement age. So far, it is retirement at 60. But the government is seeing that 'under the present circumstances' we can longer afford this. Why?
First because the older folks are living longer, thanks to good health care and increased life expectancy. So if a guy worked for 30 years, retires at 60 and lives to be 100, he will be on pension for 40 years!
The second reason is that the people to contribute to the pension system are getting less, thanks to reduced births and also emigration! Here is a government faced with a big chunk of its population getting older and not seeing the youth that will replace them... that will contribute into the social security so their pensions can be paid!
One other issue (Call it a reason if you please) is that the young people that France actually have are not the 'bons français' as a Minister called it recently.
So who is a good French? A good French is the one that is not of African origin, not of Maghrebin origin, not of Asian origin. If he is European, it should not be of the "roaming, wandering and nomadic" type.
I do not envy the French lawmakers. I dont envy the citizens either. I just feel pity for both. First they started hunting down people of the first group - people of African origin and started repatriating them or packing them up in retention camps. That was okay.
Then people of Asian origin - mainly Pakistanis and Afghans, who have escaped from the war were also dislodged. The official reason was that their places of abode were dangerous and they could not stay until they could afford better housing.
The "roaming, wandering and nomadic type" have raised a lot of issues within the EU community. Up to the point that the French government needed to remind Vivian Redding which part of the EU she comes from and how small that part is and how little it ACTUALLY counts!
There is a current bill that will soon be voted. That one will take care of the Maghreb folks. Because those ones are 'officially French', the law will allow for their citizenship to be removed, then...
So all of this 'structural adjustment' is going on. And the working class here are surprising me by their failure to see it coming! If you want to remain who you are, then you should be able to remain who you are!
The government is telling people truth that they know. And folks think that if they strike for a day, immobilise the system, and probably bring the government to its knees, things will change. No, they wont. The law will now require you to work until you are 62. And if you did not begin work early and have not contributed enough, you work till you are 65!
I listened to a man the other day. He is an asbestos victim. This means that medically, he is in the group of the people whose life expectancy is reduced. To that effect, there was a law that 'had retirement mercy on those who will die early'. So this man was asking about himself. How long will he have to work? Will this new law take away 'the mercy law'? I felt for that man!
In the 80s, the economic prospects of many African countries was hazy, and the IMF administered the SAP pill mercilessly. Governments had to drastically reduce spending, put its citizens in dire situations to be able to meet up with standards of the IMF. The recent IMF reports shows that economic outlook in Africa and Asia is bright and actually lists an African country - Nigeria - as one of the most progressive economies. But things are looking gray in Europe.
We had Iceland, then Greece and many more are on the brink. Countries like Germany and Norway have always had a kind of ongoing SAP in small doses. But for some other countries, like France, a big dose is unavoidable! And that is what the law makers are expecting the people to understand. Maybe the communication work was not well done or not done long enough.. but well
I am not sure that people striking will get much out of it. Whether the strike lasts a day, a week or a month, it will not in any way change the economic outlook of the country. Politicians may lose their offices but the next ones will face the same situation.
The one person who has gained something is Bruno Laporte, a guy who tweeted "Dans le metro. Coincé contre une jolie metisse aux yeux bleus. Je soutiens la grève. :P"
"I am in the Metro, pushed up against a beautiful half-caste with blue eyes. I support the strike"