The French (public radio) news being on strike again, along with the rest of the so-called ‘public service’ sector, I was forced to turn to the BBC this morning, which took just five minutes to inaccurately describe the labor situation in France.
France is not, as the BBC noted, one of the strongest union countries in Europe — that would be Germany — but one of the weakest, with only about 10 percent of the work-force belonging to unions. And they’re not striking to protest what they consider President Sarkozy’s inadequate response to the crisis. They’re on strike because in their view the Sarkozy government is a threat to their precious entitlements, and because going on strike is their favorite means of disagreeing. I’m exasperated that workers who have jobs, with six weeks of vacation and often a 13th month of pay yet, are refusing to work and thus discommoding the rest of us and throwing a public temper-tantrum.
The fact is, President Sarkozy broadcast in advance that he was going to shake things up — that’s why a majority of voters cast their lot with him. The fact is that until recently, the Socialists were too busy bickering to come up with an alternative plan. The fact is that if Segolene had won the presidential election, France would still be stuck in a mire. Some may not like what Sarkozy has and wants to institute — and there is certainly reason to not always trust his motives — but the fact is it took a Sarkozy to recognize that the status quo was not working and to shake it up. Instead of just complaining, the political and union opposition should use this as an opportunity to make its own parry and suggest constructive, workable, practical and practicable solutions, as — to give her credit — new Socialist premiere secretary Martine Aubry finally started to do last month.