Gridlock sets in as France enters week 2 of a nationwide strike


    French Civil Servants Join Rail Protest

    By ELAINE GANLEY – 1 hour ago

    PARIS (AP) — Travel woes piled up in France with air traffic delays adding to a week of rail strikes as many of the nation's 5 million civil servants held a day-long walkout Tuesday in the biggest test of President Nicolas Sarkozy's appetite for reform.
    Schools and the postal service were among victims of the day of action by civil servants pressing for pay hikes and assurances of job security. More than 300,000 — or nearly 40 percent — of France's teachers stayed off the job, the Education Ministry said, forcing some schools to close. Flights also were delayed and newspapers not printed.

    A small minority of the workforces at France's two main energy utilities, Electricite de France and Gaz de France, joined the strike, the companies said.

    Although civil servants and transport workers have different demands, together their protests are the biggest test to Sarkozy's promises of reform and cost-cutting since he took office in May.

    National newspapers couldn't be found at kiosks Tuesday as printers and distributors jumped on the strike bandwagon, much like students angry about university reforms adopted last summer.

    Striking air traffic controllers caused delays averaging 45 minutes at Paris' two airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, on flights from short domestic routes to long-haul.

    Despite the increased pressure on Sarkozy, the government has stood firm. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Monday that reforms must move forward.

    Tuesday marked the seventh day of transport strikes, which have caused massive disruption on the national rail network and in Paris' Metro and commuter lines.

    Budget Minister Eric Woerth told France Inter radio on Tuesday that those strikes could impact France's economic growth if they last. The government says they are costing France's economy between $440 million and $513 million a day.

    Train drivers are protesting Sarkozy's plans to extend the number of years they must work before retiring. The government has insisted that for talks to start, more strikers must return to work. It also says that the core of the reform — that all workers will have to work for 40 years to qualify for full pensions — is nonnegotiable.

    The conservative president, who has often jumped into disputes to sort them out himself, has remained curiously silent about the strike — seemingly to avoid stoking the protesters' determination.

    Sarkozy was elected in May on promises to reform France — from its courts to its creaking university system, its army of civil servants to rail workers whose special retirement privileges he vowed to erase.

    Campuses are also bubbling with discontent. Knots of students have been blocking classes at dozens of France's 85 state-run universities to protest a law allowing them to seek nongovernment funding. Critics fear the change will mean schools closing their doors to the poor and scrapping classes that can't attract private funding.

    Associated Press writer Jean-Marie Godard contributed to this story.

    In pictures: French strikes widen


    French commuters faced more misery as transport workers held a second week of stoppages, joined by hundreds of thousands of civil servants staging a 24-hour walkout.


    Commuters on the Paris metro, where one in three subway trains were running on Tuesday, had to be corralled to prevent platform overcrowding.


    Some rail stations were again left deserted. Postal workers, teachers, air traffic controllers and hospital staff joined the stoppages on Tuesday in protest at planned pay and job cuts.


    Those who were going to work were forced to skate, cycle or walk to the office.
  3. that first picture looks like my drive to work every morning.:rolleyes:

    Sarkozy sounds like an ass. Cuts + having to work longer before retirement is NOT good. I hope these people get what they want.

    November 22, 2007

    [SIZE=-1]A railway worker replaced a cable after an arson attack on the high-speed rail network in Varreddes today.[/SIZE]

    Rail Sabotage Is Reported in France

    PARIS, Nov. 21 — As a national transit strike stretched into its second week, arsonists disrupted high-speed train service on four main routes on Wednesday. Government officials called the fires a “coordinated act of sabotage.”

    The early morning outbreak of fires on the electrical lines supplying the T.G.V. high-speed trains happened hours before talks between transit union and government officials. The negotiators met for more than four hours and agreed to continue on Monday, while strike-weary travelers endured the eighth day of a walkout with no end in sight.

    The fires raised the question of whether the striking unions were losing control of their most militant members. Top union officials condemned the attacks and insisted that there was no proof of union involvement. Bernard Thibault, the secretary general of the Confédération Générale du Travail, a powerful union, said such attacks during a strike were “certainly designed to bring discredit to the profession.”

    Government officials also condemned the fires. They stopped short of blaming the unions.

    The state-owned rail operator, S.N.C.F., said the fires were ignited between 6:10 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. on routes linking Paris with eastern France, the western Atlantic coast, the north and the southeast. S.N.C.F. officials also reported vandalism to rail signal systems, including burning rags stuffed in signal boxes.

    Some S.N.C.F. workers, who operate other long-distance and regional lines as well as the high-speed lines, voted Wednesday in several big cities to suspend the strike. But workers in Normandy and Nantes vowed to go on.

    On Tuesday, François Chérèque, the secretary general of another major union, the C.F.D.T., was forced to flee a rally after jeering members surrounded him to protest the union’s support of negotiations.

    Railway officials said the number on strike was falling: about one in five workers was absent on Wednesday, they said, compared with about three in five when the strike started last week.

    But the reality of the French train network is that a minority of workers can disrupt most service. By afternoon, the S.N.C.F. was predicting more limited transportation services on Thursday, though with signs of improvement. It said two-thirds of the high-speed trains and three-fourths of Métro and suburban trains would be running.

    The Montparnasse train station in Paris was the scene of another protest on Wednesday, with thousands of tobacco sellers marching toward the National Assembly to demand a softening of antismoking measures scheduled to take effect in January.
    Strikes and walkouts — by firemen, teachers, weather service employees, stagehands and others — are taking a toll in Paris.

    Patrice Crueize, the owner of L’Entracte, a bar and restaurant near the Opéra Garnier, was infuriated. “We’ve lost something like 40 to 50 percent of our sales since the beginning of the strikes,” he said. “People don’t take time to drink or to eat anymore; they go home earlier.”

    The Gymnase Theater in Paris also has been hard hit. A one-man show with François Pirette opened there Oct. 3, but he has been absent the last couple of days. “It’s the fifth time he cancels his show due to the strikes,” said Jean-Pierre Gautier, one of the theater’s directors. “He lives in western France.”
  5. ^ in the picture above I think it's interesting that they're showing a German ICE train ;)
  6. I hope the strike will end soon, since the gvt has finally accepted to see the Unions at least if there is negociations, we can have hope !

    The Metro is not working very well : for instance on line 12, one metro every 40 minuts (instead of 3 minuts)...So you can imagine the crowd...and the mess...
  7. I noticed that too - how funny!

    I may be in the minority here but I love how Sarkozy is taking on the unions. Who do these union workers think will support them when they retire when they are 50? Sorry, I do not want to burden my kids with having to support me when I retire.
  8. Because they are selfish.....while all the baby boomers are hapily retiring now between age 50 and 55 and living the good life, our generation will have to work til death and not even be sure to get any pension from the governement at all....but they couldn´t care less....who´s gonna pay for their 30 years of retirement + support all the poor and unemployed ??? We´d need all european workers to support french social system !!!
  9. It looks like the strike is pretty much over now, but now French police have bigger problems on their hands.....

    French Youths Clash With Police

    Michael Sawyer/Associated Press
    Residents stand by the wreckage of a police patrol car on Sunday night in Villiers-le-bel, a northern Paris suburb.

    Published: November 27, 2007

    PARIS, Nov. 26 — The French police were bracing for new violence today in a troubled Paris suburb after arson and rioting erupted overnight Sunday when two youths were killed in a collision with a police car.

    The clashes broke out after two teenagers on a motorbike collided with a police car Sunday in the town of Villiers-le-Bel, about 12 miles north of Paris.

    Within an hour of the accident, bands of youths began stoning police and firemen, and set four buildings ablaze, including a police station and a McDonald’s restaurant. More than 28 cars were torched, many at a garage, officials said.

    Twenty-five police officers were injured, including one with a punctured lung, and nine people were arrested, mainly in Villiers-le-Bel.

    The violence spread to nearby Sarcelles, and some damage was reported in other towns.

    “We’ve talked to our colleagues from the domestic intelligence services, who themselves talked to their contacts, in particular in schools, and what they are hearing are the little brothers saying, ‘My big brother told me to stay home tonight because they are going to destroy everything,’ ” said Patrick Trotignon, who is in charge of the Paris area for the Synergie Officiers police union.

    The circumstances recalled the accidental deaths of two teenagers in October 2005 in another Paris suburb that sparked a three-week wave of unrest across France.

    The two teenagers who died Sunday were identified in the French media only as Moushin, 15, and Larami, 16. They were riding on a small motorbike, or ‘dirt-bike,’ in Villiers-le-Bel in the Val d’Oise department, north of Paris.

    Police described the accident as probably an ordinary crash at an intersection. “What is almost entirely sure is that it wasn’t a chase with the youths, but that they crashed into each other at the intersection,” said a police spokeswoman for the Val d’Oise region. “There is a theory that the youths ignored the right of way.” Mr. Trotignon said the kind of motorbike that was involved was not approved for road use.

    The two teenagers who died in October 2005 were electrocuted in a power station in another suburb, Clichy-sous-Bois, while fleeing police.

    An investigation concluded that officers had chased the two youths on foot, though not as far as the power station. In the ensuing troubles, which spread to many urban areas in France, thousands of cars were burned and dozens of public buildings were set on fire.

    Since the 2005 riots, authorities have increased funding to help the suburban areas which often suffer from poverty and high unemployment rates; in some of the largely immigrant areas, youth unemployment is close to 50 percent.

    Earlier this month, police found three gas cylinders loaded with screws and bolts in the troubled suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, north of Paris. One had been placed in a trash container which was later set ablaze, in what was considered to have been a trap for the police.

    “There’s an escalation,” said Mr. Trotignon, speaking about the discovery of the gas cylinders in Aulnay in light of the events in Villiers-le-Bel.

    “It wasn’t just to scare us off, it was to kill. And now we’ve got an officer who’s got a perforated lung.”

    Mr. Trotignon said he expected “that tonight we’re going in for more,” with the chance that violence will spread to nearby towns. “We’ve been saying for eons that we’re sitting on a powder keg,” he said.
  10. Day #2,,30200-1294458,00.html

    Fresh Wave Of Violence In Paris

    Updated:07:27, Tuesday November 27, 2007

    Dozens of police officers have been injured during a second night of clashes between security forces and rioters in Paris.

    Deaths of two teens sparked violence

    Around 100 cops were attacked by French youths with large firecrackers and stones in the suburb of Villiers-le-Bel.

    A car, truck and a police car were set on fire, and police fought back by firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

    President Nicolas Sarkozy, visiting China, has appealed for calm.

    The trouble, which began on Sunday, was sparked when two teenagers were killed in a crash with a police car earlier.

    The pair, aged 15 and 16, were riding a stolen motorbike when the incident happened.
    "It was not a chase but apparently a traffic accident," a police source said.

    Rioters torched cars

    The local authority said a police officer who went to the scene of the tragedy was attacked by youths who had gathered there.

    Some 28 cars and five buildings were set ablaze, including a police station, in the violence on Sunday that injured 26 police and fire officers. Nine people were arrested.

    The violent incident has brought back memories of France's worst urban unrest in 40 years, which broke out in another Paris suburb, after two teenagers died while apparently fleeing police in November 2005.

    Life still grim in French suburbs despite pledges

    Tue Nov 27, 2007 3:23pm EST
    By Anna Willard

    PARIS (Reuters) - Life has not improved for the inhabitants of France's poor, ethnically diverse suburbs since the riots of 2005, despite millions of euros in cash pledges and President Nicolas Sarkozy's election promises.

    High unemployment, underperforming schools, poor relations with the police, inadequate housing and controversial new immigration laws have created a generation of frustrated youths ready to turn to violence at any time.

    Locals say it is not surprising that the deaths of two teenagers in a crash with police in the Villiers-le-Bel suburb of northern Paris led to scenes that revived memories of 2005, when France's worst urban riots in 40 years erupted.

    "Nothing has changed," said Mehdi Bigaderne, a spokesman for ACLEFEU, an association helping youths in Clichy-sous-Bois.

    "I don't think they learnt any lessons from 2005." The violence two years ago began in Clichy-sous-Bois when two teenagers were electrocuted after apparently fleeing police.

    The prime minister at the time, Dominique de Villepin, promised to restore millions of euros in funding for community projects in sensitive areas, funds the public accounts body this month said had often failed to reach their destination.

    Sarkozy, who as interior minister took a tough line on the 2005 rioters and was blamed for stoking the violence, called for affirmative action to help non-whites get fair treatment.

    During this year's presidential election campaign he called for a "Marshall Plan 2", a reference to the U.S. aid granted to rebuild post-war France, to offer 250,000 youngsters in the 750 most deprived areas paid training and work experience.


    Despite the long list of promises, nothing has changed.

    "The inhabitants highlighted four problems: the police, education, unemployment and the status of immigrants," said sociologist Laurent Mucchielli.

    "On schools, that has not moved forward one iota, you have only to look at the results. The fall in unemployment doesn't seem to have reached these neighborhoods. As for the police, it's even worse than before," he told the Le Parisien daily.

    Local officials and residents have repeatedly called for a return to community policing, which was scrapped by Sarkozy during his stints at the interior ministry.

    "Ten or 20 years ago, the police would come by and talk to us, now they just want to put the youngsters up against the wall and search them," said Samir Ghrabi who has lived in Villiers-le-Bel since 1973. "We need community police."

    The 2005 riots also provoked a wider debate about better integration of second-generation immigrants who feel alienated by mainstream society, despite being born in France.

    A recent law on immigration that introduces language assessments and optional DNA tests to verify family links, has made them feel more marginalized.

    Sarkozy has sought to offer non-whites role models in his government by naming Rachida Dati as justice minister and Fadela Amara as junior towns minister. Both are of North African origin.

    Amara will present a plan for the suburbs in January but it may be too little, too late.
    "Promises were made. We see the results today," Francois Hollande, the Socialist leader, said.

    "There's talk of a plan for the suburbs. How long have we been talking about a 'plan for the suburbs'?"

    (Reporting by Anna Willard and Brian Rohan; Editing by Jon Boyle)
  12. France is facing a very serious crisis with its African/Islamic immigrant population. If this-or any future-French government is not able to solve at least some of the basic problems like schooling and jobs, I dread to think of what might happen next.
  13. For those not familiar with Paris, let me explain to you why this is happening in the suburbs and not the inner city. Paris proper had become so expensive in the 60s and 70s that housing projects were build on the outskirts of the city. These projects are now in the suburbs (banlieus) and that is where most of the ethnic poor now live. If you've ever driven into Paris from Charles de Gaulle airport, you've passed the depressing high rise project buildings where many of these people live. That is why you see these incidents in the 'burbs and not in the city itself.

  14. I agree. It is growing into a monster that cannot be ignored for much longer. There is also an element of the population in France that is embracing radical islam and that is going totally unchecked right now. Because people of color are so marginalized in that culture, it is making they younger people all the more militant.
  15. I found this a very informative article which helped me understand the "suburb" situation in France. It is from today's Wall Street Journal

    Apartheid à la Française
    December 4, 2007; Page A21

    Paris's suburbs are on fire again.

    Once or twice a year, the same scenario repeats itself on television: Suburban thugs, most in their teens and of Arab or African origin, burn hundreds of cars, destroy businesses that dared settle near projects -- called "cités" -- and the French police fight back.

    The traditional French, living outside these cités, watch on TV as if those next-door riots unfolded on the other side of the moon. Then the president appears, promises to be tough on the thugs and to increase public funding to improve suburban quality of life.

    In the sequel to this choreographed show, the party leaders accuse one another in Parliament of not investing enough money in order to help these destitute youngsters -- or of not repressing them enough. Journalists and public intellectuals take turns commenting on late-night TV programs. And so it goes until the next riots.

    The repetition of this scenario indicates that the reasons behind suburban violence lie in French society. This is not to excuse the thugs as victims, but to say that their behavior reflects the apartheid-like characteristics of France.

    The French would be shocked to be compared with South Africa of the past, but our suburbs bear more social resemblance to Soweto than Paris. We live in a discriminatory society where an invisible line separates the insiders from the outsiders. The insiders happen to be French, with a French family history extending back many generations. They are well educated, and reasonably well-off.

    The outsiders happen to be from Africa -- first, second or third generation, poorly educated, jobless and from a non-mainstream culture or religion. According to the French republican ideology, they all are French with the same rights. But the reality differs. Our economic policy has created a strong public sector and job market protected by high walls of restrictive regulation. If you're educated enough, you pass a civil servant exam and get a plum job for life. If you have the right connections and talent, the private sector treats you as a quasi civil servant. Firing an employee is nearly impossible. The outsiders without the right connections and education remain outside: All the regulations play against them.

    The majority of insiders don't want job-market flexibility, perceiving it as a brutal American way of mistreating workers. Even President Nicolas Sarkozy needs to be very cautious, as his conservative majority belongs to the insider camp.

    French housing policy is also discriminatory. For implicit ideological reasons dating back to the 1940s when the Gaullists and the Communists were allies, French governments favored renting over owning. The state gives subsidies to the poorest people so they can rent, but not buy. Cheap, subsidized projects tend to be clustered in the suburbs. Ethnic ghettos are a byproduct of this construction policy and avoidance of ownership. Poor immigrant families naturally regroup in those projects. The ethnic concentration, plus the absence of jobs, generates a local subculture that is neither African nor French, but in between. Rap music is the artistic expression of this subculture, and the bourgeois insiders tend to love this exoticism, sanitized on CDs and TV shows.

    The only way to escape the poverty and violence of the ghettos is to leave the ghetto, which is accomplished by more girls than boys. Outsider girls tend to be school achievers, and express more willingness to escape the patriarchal tyranny of their fathers and older brothers.

    Education could be the key out of the ghetto, but this is seldom the case. Not only do ghetto schools not attract the best teachers, the very content of education is discriminatory. The history of colonization is taught as if it were a glorious feature of French history. In Senegal, on his first official visit to Africa, Mr. Sarkozy regretted the violence of colonization but insisted on the good intentions of the French colonizers, out there to bring civilization to the "African man" who had "not entered history."

    This discourse, reflected in school books and the insiders' general attitude, aggravates the hatred among outsiders whose family memories tell a different story. Overall the French tend to ignore how much their national culture implicitly rejects diversity. The dominant so-called republican ideology requires immigrants to conform. Mr. Sarkozy, for the first time in our political history, had the guts to appoint Arab women to key government positions. Rachida Dati, our new justice minister, is thus promoted as a role model for all French Arabs. But she is "integrated," doesn't go to the mosque, and wears haute couture, not an Islamic veil.

    Socialist and conservative leaders alike are not ready to acknowledge that their "goodwill" policy -- more subsidies -- just leads to more apartheid. They should wonder why, after 30 years of state intervention, suburbs tend to shift further away from the mainstream, self-satisfied insiders.

    An alternative policy would require a major rethinking of the French fundamentals. To open the labor market to outsiders means a severe makeover of the welfare state as we know it. To erase the ghettos requires a shift from home renting to home owning. A less discriminatory school curriculum demands a revision of our national history. This has been done regarding the World War II Vichy regime, but not yet with the history of colonization. Eventually, the insiders have to acknowledge the fact that France actually is diverse.

    Such a massive effort would be based on a political consensus between the right and left. It would require patience and resilience, but in the long run may be the only way to restore peace in the French suburbs. It would also be useful as a way to keep young French Muslims from joining the ranks of the radical Islamist cells which, today, are not entirely dormant.

    Who will resist this ideological shift? The most entrenched insiders within the public sector will protect their interests in the name of the republican tradition. Market opening and diversity smack of America, after all. Not being like the U.S. is the ultimate excuse for not bringing France into the real world.

    Mr. Sarkozy, who is free-market oriented, pro-private ownership, and from an immigrant family, seemed to offer hope for a new vision. But so far, he has acted as a remarkable tactician, able to confuse his enemies and defuse tensions. His overall strategy remains unclear, and the facts somewhat contradict his rhetoric. The French state budget for 2008 looks eerily similar to the 2007 Chirac budget. Soweto still lies next door.

    Mr. Sorman is a contributing editor to City Journal and the author of 20 books on French politics and international affairs.