Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The new aristocrats

On the left side: "we are fed up" and on the right side: "we are on strike"

A friend once said to me, France means three things to him: Paris, wine and strikes. Well, that's putting it into a nutshell. I have been living here now for over 25 years and I can testify there is more to it.

But there is no denying it: strikes are aplenty over here. What is less well known is the fact that it's always the same people who are on strike: the state employed teachers, the National Railway people and public transport in general. The public sector in general at all levels, state, cities, any kind of administration plus those companies that have at least strong ties with the public sector (the State being an important shareholder or so).

And when they have finished one of those stikes their speakers ask for compensation - meaning the salary paid in full - and if there is some hesitation to grant this, there is pronto another strike.

Good old Karl Marx's definition of strikers "people who have nothing to loose than their chains" is really an old hat.

These happy strikers are not the downtrodden poor, they are our aristrocrats and consequently, we have to feed them! As the aristocrats of old, they have prerogatives and special rights, like a secure job unless you kill father, mother and your boss, few hours of work, garanteed days of illness (oh yes, in some public sectors), 7 weeks of holidays per year at a minimum, pension at 55 or 58 at the latest with a monthly amount identical to the last salary.

When you talk to a civil servant, they always tell you how little they earn. But they never mention the numerous bonuses they get, for having children, for not working or living in the place where they have been engaged, three days of paid leave for one child that is ill and so on, and so on, paying less for their pensions than the private sector but getting more in the end.....

And there is another similarity with the pre-revolutionary aristocrats: they are not thankful for being fed by the taxpayer who pay their salary, their pension and their workplace.

I have been late at my job because of the railway strikes. I got sacked due to the railway strikes. The only solution for me is to die but even this I can't do because of the railway strikes!

The only exception to all this, as far as I know, is the police, they don't go on strike, they work long hours in frequently dangerous surroundings and they are grossly underpaid. The other exception is the people working in the public health sector, doctors, nurses etc. Long hours of work, unpaid overtime, stressful surroundings.

Here, the trade unions are very small compared to other countries. And their members are nearly exclusively "busy" in the public sector. Therefore, they have plenty of time to walk the streets shouting slogans and having a good time. When it rains they are less numerous. Nearly any reason is good for a strike here or there and when they are being asked you generally hear it's for the common good. Those striking teachers and public transport people see themselves as a kind of vanguard. They show us the way and do what we can't do. Thank you!