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Posts Tagged ‘strikes’

Bonjour Paris newsletter out: French strikes, travel spots, life

October 16th, 2010 No comments

I write for Bonjour Paris and we just put out some new articles about everyday life in Paris, from tourism tips to strikes and news. You can sign up for the weekly newsletter on the site.

French ongoing strikes Oct. 12, and perhaps more after

October 11th, 2010 1 comment

If you’re lounging in the sun at Jardin Luxembourg, know that heated debate is going on in the Sénat building next to you.

Following strikes and demonstrations Sep. 7, Sep. 23 and Oct. 2 against government proposals to reform the pension and retirement system in France (including raising the general age from 60 to 62), the main unions (CFDT, CFTC, CGT, FO, SUD, UNSA-GATC…) have called for yet another day of “action” on the streets.

Laurence Parisot, President of MEDEF (the National Council of French Employers, basically a CEO club), said these strikes would continue to undermine the reputation of France abroad as a reliable place to do business. Prime Minister François Fillon meanwhile said it could well take a “decade” before France balances its budget. As The Economist wrote, President Sarkozy is trying to pass this crucial reform in the midst of a reputation comeback effort at home and abroad.

Conservative daily Le Figaro presents a great special report on the retirement reform here. It also stated that this is a “decisive week” for the strike movement, but only 31% of French support a strike that could be extended during this week or longer but 71% support the reasons behind the social movement, nuances that match historical support for resistance to government reform that is badly needed to get the government budget in order. Many strikers want to see taxes raised on the wealthy, such as an elimination of the current ceiling of 50% tax rate on the wealthiest.

RATP, the Parisian region transport authority, has posted updates for tomorrow’s traffic here. Metro lines 1, 11, 14 should have no problems. Line 6 will have 75% traffic; lines 3, 4 , 8, 13 will have 66% traffic; and line 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12 will have 50% traffic. For RER suburban rail lines, RER A will have 50% traffic, RER B will have 20% traffic (so for CDG airport, I’d advise you to take alternate transport: Roissybus to/from metro Opéra, a taxi or Air France shuttles). Orly transport options are listed too.

SNCF, the national railway operator, has posted information as well here on the possibly ‘ongoing’ strikes (so, which could be repeated over several days). You can find information for other metro areas transport below, mostly in French. You can see the status of departures and arrivals in the main train stations at Gares en Mouvement website, one of the few things I like at SNCF (though overall I wish the U.S. had an impressive HSR system)

Aéroports de Paris (which runs Orly, Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais airports) said to expect possible delays, cancellations and other inconveniences on Oct. 12, notably because of Air France workers on strike. Air France posts information here on the strikes.

Other major cities and their transport systems below with relevant updates:
Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Dijon, Brest, Caen, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Montpellier

Bon courage to everyone. Just take a deep breath, buy a baguette, drink some vin rouge, and complain against strikers. You’re becoming French by the moment. There are many wonderful things in this country, try to enjoy your time here!

September 23 France strikes: Your city-by-city survival guide

September 23rd, 2010 3 comments

Well, after the Sep 7 strikes, the unions have called for another day of protests in order to get the government to cede some more territory in the reform on pensions and retirement. But Sarkozy has vowed to not budge on the key issue – raising the age from 60 to 62 for retirement and from 65 to 67 for full pension access. As Labor Minister Eric Woerth was quoted by Reuters:

“We haven’t changed. We are very firm on the core of the reform, which is (the retirement) age.”
The government says the legislation is essential to erase a growing deficit in the pay-as-you-go pension system, curb rising public debt and preserve France’s coveted AAA credit ratings, which enables it to borrow at the lowest market rates…”If you don’t reform it, it simply won’t be viable and we won’t be able to pay French people’s pensions,” Woerth said.

This is turning out to be quite a fierce battle, and even though Sarkozy has been speaking around the country showing some concessionary measures (for arduous jobs like firemen and policemen, and taking into account the situations of working mothers), the core of the reform is on the table. It has been adopted by the National Assembly and is awaiting approval in the Senate.

So the unions are once again preparing for a day of “action” and even speaking about strikes in early October possibly touching weekend traffic. That’s just great. This is like protesting against the force of gravity and economic common sense. The unions are like little whining children. Let the adults do the work. Tomorrow’s strike will affect schools, the post office, some banks but especially public transport systems around the country.

RATP, the Parisian region transport authority, has posted updates for tomorrow’s traffic here. SNCF, the national railway operator, has posted information as well here. You can find information for other metro areas transport below, mostly in French. Le Figaro presents a great special report on the retirement reform here.

Other major cities and their transport systems below with relevant updates:
Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Dijon, Brest, Caen, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Montpellier

With all of these disruptions, what you are planning on doing? Luckily in Paris, there will be 75% traffic on buses, so I’ll be OK. But for those opting for the Velib bike rental system in Paris, here is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Velib has been preparing for a day where they see a significant increase in bike usage (20-30% more on Sep. 7 than normal days, over 130,000 rentals per day).

UPDATE FROM BBC:

The walkouts are expected to hit transport the hardest. Only one in two trains will be running nationally and disruptions to services had already begun on Wednesday night….About half of flights at Paris Orly are to be cancelled, as well as 40% at the capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and 40% at other airports throughout the country, said the DGAC civil aviation authority…

….The pension reform bill has already been passed by France’s lower house of parliament. It will be debated from 5 October by the upper house, the Senate, where it is expected to pass comfortably.

France’s retirement age is lower than many countries in Europe. Under current rules, both men and women in France can retire at 60, providing they have paid social security contributions for 40.5 years – although they are not entitled to a full pension until they are 65.

The government says it will save 70bn euros (£58bn) by raising the retirement age to 62 by 2018, the qualification to 41.5 years, and the pension age to 67.

Unions and opposition politicians say the plan puts an unfair burden on workers, particularly women, part-timers and the former unemployed who might struggle to hit the 41.5 year requirement….

French strikes: the reactions

September 7th, 2010 No comments

How did you do? For me, Paris metro 7 line was doable, but the 3 in Paris this morning was rough. I got off at an unpopular stop (Malesherbes) for my meeting, so I was a bit unpopular as I was against the opposite doors. Ah well, c’est la vie.

(Thibault Camus/Associated Press) Commuters at the Saint Lazare train station in Paris on Tuesday morning.

Le Figaro features some interesting pieces:
-how unions and police estimate demonstrators (2.5 v 1.12 million).
-unions warning there will be more strikes (surprise, surprise. What clowns).
what was motivating strikers

Foreign press:
The Economist
BBC with video
New York Times

Excerpt:

…The pension problem in France is real. If unchanged, the number of pensioners will rise 47 percent between now and 2050. The French state pension system today is running a deficit of $14 billion; by 2050, it will be $131 billion, about 2.6 percent of projected economic output.

The change from 60 to 62 for a minimum pension will not solve all of the problems, and already represents a political compromise by Mr. Sarkozy.

But he must also find other savings in the budget, which this year has a deficit of 8 percent of gross domestic product. He has promised European allies — and the investors in the bond markets — to reduce that to 6 percent next year and to 3 percent by 2013, which leaves many economists skeptical that he can do it without raising taxes. Another Sarkozy reform, to eliminate a level of regional government in the bureaucrat-heavy French state, has been shelved for now in the face of opposition from the Socialists, who dominate local government….

September 7th day of strikes: What you should know city by city

September 6th, 2010 2 comments

Oh là là. Pas encore. Especially for striking against raising the retirement age, a necessary evil if the French government is to not go broke and be able to finance its public debt. They’ve announced raising it from the current 60 years old to 62 over the course of 8 years. If you’re in France on Tuesday September 7th, look out for heavy disruptions in public transport, among other services (post office, schools…). RATP, the Parisian region transport authority, has posted updates for tomorrow’s traffic here. SNCF, the national railway operator, has posted information as well here. You can find information for other metro areas transport below, mostly in French. Figaro gives a good breakdown too, en français.

Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux,Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Dijon, Brest, Caen, La Rochelle, Le Havre.

Former Socialist Party Presidential candidate Ségolène Royal has stated that “if the French come out in numbers to demonstrate in the street, the government will have to take that into account.” More on this tomorrow…I know I have an important meeting on the other side of Paris tomorrow morning for work, might risk the RATP system, Vélib it or taxi…we’ll see. Bon courage à tous!

SNCF announces new strikes starting April 6

According to Bloomberg News, France and Britain will both experience rail strikes in the coming week. For the British, you can see more details by clicking on the links to the articles. I focus on France here.

Business Week quoted Bloomberg News:

Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer, or SNCF, plans strikes in April in the third walkout this year at the French railway. The CGT union, SNCF’s biggest, is asking drivers to call attention to demands on wages and working conditions. Freight workers, ticket-sales staff and other workers may join the strike in following days, Severine Leblond, an administrative assistant at the CGT, said today by phone.

New York Times In Transit travel blog:

Planned Rail Strikes in France and Britain
Bloomberg is reporting that in France, the biggest union of the S.N.C.F., the French national railroad, also plans strikes beginning April 6, the third walkout this year to call attention to its demands on wages and working conditions.

The union, the C.G.T., has been joined by the smaller C.F.D.T. labor group in calling on train drivers, a C.G.T. representative said Wednesday. Freight workers and other employees are set to join the strike in following days.

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