Posts Tagged ‘Demonstrations’

In 2006-07, I was working as a French language assistant in Sète, a smallish fishing port on the Mediterranean cost. It’s a beautiful place and I’d definitely recommend visiting it if you’re ever in the south of France.

I had a great year and was lucky enough to experience that special French event – la grève (the strike) not once, but five times.

A couple of times the teachers themselves went on strike. One time it was over working hours. The government had plans to get rid of a system whereby certain professeurs could work fewer hours in the classroom to compensate for time spent preparing for lessons.  

When I first heard about the strike, I was tempted to think it had been called as a chance to do some Christmas shopping. It was on 18th December, after all.

But I remember the heated discussion that went on in the staff room. On one side there were the teachers bent on striking to defend their rights. On the other were those who felt this was an unnecessary strike, that the pupils would suffer and that there were more important battles to be fought.

It was thrilling to witness people so passionate about politics when in England I’ve only ever encountered apathy.

Of course, it also helped that the strike meant I could have the day off. Even if some teachers were coming in, I was told that most pupils would use it as an excuse to take a day off.


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French workers demonstrate against the conservative government’s economic policy that would impact salaries, benefits and pensions. The strike effected the transport industry.

Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos

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They’re at it again, les Français. Forget le football, we all know striking is France’s national sport and today saw a fine example of the game.

A staggering 2.5 million workers took to the streets to protest against Sarkozy’s handling of the economic crisis.

Unions are demanding that he do more to protect employment, public services and le pouvoir d’achat (the buying power of the average man).

Schools closed. Transport came to almost a complete halt with only 30% of trains running.

And yet despite all the disruption brought by this “jeudi noir” (as the French press are calling it), public opinion is behind the strikers.

According to a poll conducted for the weekly news magazine L’Express, 69% of the French public think their action is “justifié”. (Get hold of this pole here.)

People throughout France feel that President Bling, as Sarkozy is known for his love of Rolex watches, is not doing enough to help the ordinary man.

They sympathize with the strikers cry of “on ne veut pas payer pour les banquiers!” (We don’t want to pay for the bankers). They agree with FO union leader Jean-Claude Mailly’s characterisation of the French government as “irrésponsable”.

With the President not prepared to listen, things turned nasty. This evening, there are reports of youths throwing bottles and lighting fires on the streets of Paris. (See BBC.)

This isn’t your average strike, an average grève. This is revolt.

To find out more about the origins of this strike see this article in Le Monde. Or if you’re after an  explanation in English this article in Der Spiegel is good.

Le Nouvel Observateur has an hour by hour break down of the event and videos of the days events accross France.

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