Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Democracy in France

That the French have no qualms taking to the streets in protest is legendary (or a stereotype). Before arriving, I was curious whether I would get to witness a French protest.

Since September 7, 2010 there have been four grèves générales (general strikes) in France against the Sarkozy government's proposed retirement reforms. The most recent of these strikes was yesterday, October 12.

I don't fully understand the proposed reform. From what I garner, however, is that it would raise the minimum age of retirement from 60 to 62, therefore obliging French citizens to work and contribute (côtiser) to their pensions a minimum of 42 years. Opposition to this reform seems rampant and so people have resorted to striking.

Although the teacher for my morning classes had already alerted me the day before that she was not holding class because she was going to strike, I went to school anyway so that I would be paid. On my way out I heard a syndicat of workers marching down the street past my building.

When I got to school, there were about a hundred students assembled out front and students had also blockaded the entrances. They were only letting teachers and prep school students in. I had expected them to hurl insults at me for crossing their blockade such as I have heard happens when people cross picket lines, but they were very respectful. They had hung a banner on the gates that read: Lycéens en colère / Non à la réforme! (Secondary school students angry / No to the reform!) I asked the students why they were opposed to the reform to which they answered it was because there is a very high level of youth unemployment in France and they were frustrated that the government was extending the length of employment for older people.

I checked in with the secretary. She said that because the students had blockaded the school only prep school classes were taking place, but that afternoon classes were supposed to resume as normal after the manifestation (called a mani for short) was done.

I found the manifestation intriguing me because I'd never seen anything like it in Canada. Canadians strike, but typically during contract renegotiations. I think that if the government of Canada were to tamper with the Canadian Pension Plan, I think that Canadians (at the very least baby-boomers) would take to the streets too.

As there were no classes taking place, I decided to observe the mani. Here are a few photos:

People gathered at the train station near my house before setting off and marching to the préfecture and mairie.

My school's banner.

I was amused to see a flag for the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste.

I also found the arnarchists' banner amusing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

À ces Français,il ne se gênent pas pour contester l'autorité,le les supporte à 100 pourcent....