24 June 2010

France Strikes!

Photo: © AFP/Jean-Philippe Ksiazek / France-info.com

If you need to travel somewhere in France today and are planning on getting there by plane, train, metro or bus, you might want to rethink your plans.

Likewise, if you are a primary school student, you might arrive at class to find that your teacher is carrying banners and shouting slogans in the streets.

Why? To protest against the government's plans to change the legal retirement age from 60 to 62.

This isn't the first time that the transportation sector or national education systems has gone on strike. And it probably won't be the last.

To find out if your trip by train will be affected, you can check out the SNCF website. Commuters in Paris can find information about the regional trains, metros and buses here.

And if you're in Lyon, the TCL website indicates which subways and buses are running.

On a strike day, tempers can run high as traffic congests city streets and highways. Commuters who rely on public transportation can get frustrated waiting for hours on subway platforms or in bus lines. Ultimately, people arrive late for work or appointments. And families where both parents work might find themselves scrambling to find a solution for their school-aged children whose teachers are striking.

Retirement is a thorny issue here. Basically, as I understand it, it boils down to this: there aren't enough people entering the workforce to pay for the pensions of the growing number of retiring people. And the government's solution - have people work two more years - doesn't sit well with a lot of folks in either the public or private sector.

When tensions run high, like they might today, a dose of humor can help lighten the burden of any strike-related inconvenience. This comic came to my e-mail box just this morning and I immediately thought about the situation in France today.

The French like to say "Sois-Zen" meaning "calm down", "relax" or as my children like to say "take a chill pill".
And if the humor doesn't relieve any stress, maybe a few deep breaths will do the trick.

Good luck.

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