22 September 2010

The French Are Revolting - Again!

Next week I’m due to fly to the UK to see my family and to have a reunion with some guys I worked with at Chrysler and who I have not seen since 1995. Indeed, some might turn up whom I’ve not seen since 1975!

And what happens? The French unions declare a national strike which undoubtedly means that flights will be affected, if not cancelled.

The French ‘state’ is like an octopus – its tentacles reach into every part of commerce and society and of course, the airlines are not immune. Air France is ‘only’ about 20% owned by the state with the workers owning another 10%-15% but added together, this is most definitely a state-owned and run airline. In any other major economy, an airline would appoint its own CEO, but not here in France where Sarkozy determines who gets the top jobs. It’s just like a dictatorship – but don’t get me started, let’s get back to the strikes.

The French state is also the largest stakeholder in the Paris Airports group whose employees strike at regular intervals, and the air traffic controllers – well they strike if it’s raining on a Thursday such is their propensity to have a day off!

It all adds up to an anxious wait to see what will happen. The strike is due to start on the 23rd and I’m due out on the 28th so maybe they’ll have got fed up by the time I’m due to fly out.

In some respects, quite a few of us admire the solidarity of the French (must have come from the Revolution) with their blockades of ports when the wrong British ship arrives and their burning of British meat lorries (with animals inside) when they object to foreign meat arriving on their territory. We might also admire the solidarity engrained in the ‘common man’ (and woman) who march up and down Paris’s tree-lined boulevards in protest at something or other at the drop of a hat.

We  might also secretly admire the fact that when a British company wants to buy out the food group Danone (Yakult – good for your gut), the French government steps in and declares the yoghurt company of ‘strategic national importance’ and therefore cannot be taken over! Yoghurt - strategic national importance - what a laugh! 

It’s all a shambles! If only they had a Maggie Thatcher to sort them out. The picture, by the way, is one of the ways the French are protesting about the proposed increase in the retirement age. I assume they are trying to show that they'll be dead before they get their pensions. But who knows, it might be much more deep and meaningful than that!

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