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NewsletterNovember 2010

Yesterday and Today

This is an undated postcard of Porte des Fours in La Roche sur Foron France. I’m guessing the photo was taken before WWI. Can you find the two people in the photo?

Here is a photo of Porte des Fours as it is today.

Strikes in France

Living in France one can’t escape the strikes occurring in the country over the last few months. The heart of the matter is the government’s planned (and then adopted) law to reform the retirement system. The main rallying cry is opposition to raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. The strikes went beyond a protest against this and become a general anti Nicolas Sarkozy movement. Eight strike days starting in early September, attracting between 1-3 million people taking to the streets each time, the number reported depends on the source. Whatever the numbers were, the movement was strong but not strong enough to stop the law from becoming a reality.
Why all this fuss over raising the retirement age from 60 to 62? A few reasons:

  1. French do not like giving up a social advancement. It should be noted that when Sarkozy ran for president in 2007 he endlessly decried the 35-hour work week but once in power did not repeal it.
  2. Raising the retirement age is seen by some as a defeat at the hands of what’s called ‘liberalism’ in France as in economic liberalism or laissez-faire economics. There’s also a suspicion that raising the retirement age is an olive branch to capital markets, hoping that France can keep its high bond rating and therefore a low interest rate on its debt.
  3. The relationship to work isn’t the same as in other countries. As I like to say the French work to live and not live to work. The French do their job and then want to go home, spend personal time with their family and friends.
  4. Sarkozy popularity continues to drop, resulting in voters expressing their anger, through strikes or support of strikes. Sarkozy’s decline in popularity, coupled with an election free year, meant strikes were the only outlet for people to express their anger.
  5. Tradition and culture: striking is almost as French as wine and cheese. So much so that every year and a half to two years there are strikes in France, mostly in the public sector. Just the way things are here. Strikes and demonstrations are as much a part of the political discourse in France as talk radio is in America.
  6. Unions in France play an important role in the French workplace even if only about 10% of the workforce is unionized. One important role is pushing back against the government (or management) threatening workers benefits.

A friend of mine and her husband were interviewed by PRI's The World and gave their reaction to the recent strikes in France. It’s somewhat along the lines of what I experienced. I was caused little discomfort from the strikes other than my son missing one day of school because his teacher was on strike (happened last year too).

My French Class

I’m now partnering with My French Class a service for North American students wishing to learn French in France. My French Class is offering readers of Americans in France up to a €100 discount on their services. Indicate aminfr in the discount code area while applying online.

Skiing in Megeve

Just a reminder that my good friend, Mike Beaudet, aka Megeve Mike, is ready to help with your skiing needs. Should you be a beginner or advanced, Mike will make skiing even more enjoyable. Mike is based in Megeve very close to the Mont Blanc, for more info see - Ski Pros Megeve.

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