Monday, July 19, 2010

Vuvuzelas here to stay as French pension reform causes strikes

by Expat Focus columnist, Sharon Revol

As an English girl in France, I always remark and admire the ability of the French to stand up and defend themselves. There’s no cowering in the corner with them, no polite mumblings of discontentment. Only the roar of their anger can be heard in the way of manifestations and strikes, regardless of who tries to stand in their way.

Take for example the recently proposed reform of the pension age in France which will see retirement moved from 60 to 62 years. France boasts one of the lowest retirement ages in Europe, and yet, people don’t know how lucky they are (or am I just being British about this?)

Within days of the proposal, all the large trade unions and workers had activated their resources in order to organize a massive nationwide protest against the reform which took place on June 24th. There was no stopping them! Maximum disruption to all public services and workplaces is required in order for the full effect to be felt.

In comparison to the UK the French seem to have the right idea though. Whilst my compatriots back home politely digested the bad news of the budget and seemed to calmly accept that they wouldn’t be able to retire until age 66 from 2016, the French were rioting in the streets standing up for their rights. A couple of headline articles were seen in the UK along with some negative comments made by the Trade Unions, but no mass demonstration of discontentment took place, as in France. My compatriots stood back in a gentlemanly manner and gracefully accepted the information that was given to them whilst ranting in private. As my French friends would say: “So British!”


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