March 14, 2005

France Paralyzed

When we think we've got a fiscal nightmare with out-of-control entitlements and exploding public sector growth, it's instructive to look to Europe, where unemployment is at roughly double the levels here, and economic growth rates less than half of ours. The French government knows the Golden Goose is greatly diseased, and is desperately trying to negotiate curbs on pensions, get contributions from workers for health care costs, and increase economic output by say, allowing a work week longer than 35 hours.

The response of French civil service workers to this outrageous notion is to shut down the country in a massive shit fit...

Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Paris, answering the call of unions for a massive turnout to defend France's 35-hour workweek and to push for more jobs and salary talks. Protests nationwide drew big crowds, including 35,000 people in Bordeaux and 25,000 in Marseille, police said.

Rush-hour road traffic snaked for kilometers (miles) outside the capital; many schools were shut; and French newspapers devoted their front pages to the mess. Conservative daily El Figaro carried the banner headline: "France Paralyzed."

Paris' commuter trains were badly hit by the strike which started after rush hour Wednesday and was to last until early Friday. Up to 80 percent of suburban lines were suspended.

This is a fairly regular occurrence in France, and as usual, it worked...

In a sign that the street pressure was working, Civil Service Minister Renaud Dutreil announced plans to meet this month with unions and "without any taboos" attached to the talks.

In a juicy bit of serendipity, the public transportation shutdown took place as an Olympic investigative committee was in Paris to check out the city's suitability to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Heh.

Posted by dan at March 14, 2005 1:26 AM