French on Strike: Cry Me a River

PARIS, France (CNN) — A day of strikes dubbed “Black Thursday” in France looked more like “Gray Thursday,” with officials reporting a mixed impact across the country.

Maybe it’s because they realize they’re protesting something that DOES NOT AFFECT THEM?

This strike is about the French worrying over the lack of job security. IN FRANCE. They can’t be bitching about the credit crisis, since no one here has credit; they all have debit cards.

France is the only place on the planet where there IS job security, except maybe Cuba. NO ONE loses their job here, ever. Ever, ever, ever. Everyone has their job for as long as their contract stipulates, no matter how awful they are at it. This is why, for example, customer service people don’t give a rat’s ass about you. Go ahead, call and complain! You know what happens? They get a little note stuck to their file somewhere in some back dusty room’s filing cabinets.

Remember that guy who bilked Societe Generale of like, a kabillion dollars?  Even HE had a job until the lengthy bureaucratic process of firing him was completed.  After everything he had done, he could have walked into that office every single day and played Free Cell on his computer until he got the official word that he was canned.

A friend of ours has not been paid since November. The company screwed something up, and now they have no money. But because of the labor system, they can’t lay anyone off. And employees can’t walk out, either. So everyone in her office is sitting there, not being paid, and working. They wouldn’t even give her the day off to attend our friend’s dad’s funeral last week. Tell me, gentle readers – would you have even asked permission?

The daughter of a friend of mine is a waitress at a restaurant. Her boss is beyond cruel. So, she has been counting the days until MARCH FRICKING FIFTH when her contract is up. In the meantime, she’s an insomniac and has other stress-related physical problems.

There are many, many things I love about this country. And there are many, many things I cannot stand about it. This is one of them. Next up, I will be writing about something I love, to balance out the bitching.


15 thoughts on “French on Strike: Cry Me a River

  1. That is exactly why when Mr. got a job offer for a permanent position from some French uni he said “thanks, but no, thanks.”
    Still, I love France. LOL!

  2. those comments are absolutely amazing and reflect an absolute lack of knowledge of France. People are not laid off in france, they are “dismissed”, which is less costly but as “efficient”. Now don’t forget that job security as you call it is peace of mind and increases people’s productivity. read international studies that assess that. What is exciting you most ? live to work or work to live ? Would be interesting to know …..

    • Now Etienne they are not amazing they are relatively true from the perspective of people that have worked for years outside of france. i work for a grand école. the “responsable de marketing” for the English speaking MBA program and has no post-secondary education and basically coordinates. She does not speak english even close to fluently. YET, she is responsible for evaluating my work. i have 12 years of marketing and business development experience and a master degree. English is my mother tongue. My predecessors have systematically quit the position because of the unwildly unprofessional conduct of this woman – yet she cannot be fired. In the USA or Canada she would have been canned long ago. I have been hired with a CDD. When I was offered the job I was told that I would be guaranteed to have my contract renewed 3 times…and was asked to only accept the job if I would commit to keeping the job for 3 years and perhaps moving to another position after 2 years. one day this woman asked the dean for an “intervention” to resolve problems. During this meeting she started yelling about all the people before me, accusing me of lying about visits to the prefecture for my change of CDS status and eventually started crying and ran out of the office. Completely unprofessional. The amount of stress this woman causes me has led to me being sick more often in the last 5 months than I have been in the last 10 years. It’s absolutely sickening to have to sit in the same room with her day in and day out. Yet she just yaps on the phone all day, chats with people, doesnt seem to work much. But if I’m not at my desk – she wanders around looking for me. My favorite hobby of hers is when she actually badges in from lunch and goes and lays out in the sun outside. Did I mention we have 11 weeks of vacation? In the USA, nobody would spend so much time bumming around and mindlessly chit chatting about the weather if they had 11 weeks of vacation. So from another perspective, the “job security” is abused by many as if it is a RIGHT to carte blanche work however they want and whenever they want. But then again the retaliation is that companies abuse the CDD status. Why don’t you POST one of these international studies for us to see. I do not believe it for a second….unless it was someone’s thesis statement and they jerked the results to fit their point. Research can be altered to fit the desired result. I think most North Americans would tell you that the capitalist notion of having a less constrictive employment environment encourages people to prove themselves and to deliver results. Certainly in the service industry people know that unhappy customers mean they are not delivering what they are paid to do and will lose their job eventually. Of course employers abuse that flexibility too. And then there is of course the people that believe that employees like me MUST keep their contract to remain in France….so they have no incentive to be respectful. They won’t lose their job for mistreating me. Luckily Sarkozy is changing things to make France a little bit more competitive. And I’ll tell you this too – I know plenty of foreigners that have moved their businesses to the UK because the system here can be so uncompetitive. Why do we stay here? Because there are more things we love about being here than not. Or because we have developed relationships with people here – and people are the most important thing in the world. As for your question about live to work or work to live…..that’s not the question. The question is really why has the situation led to people who say they work to live….led to monday-friday being an annoyance rather than a part of their life they embrace and balance with their time to “Live”. I imagined that having 11 weeks of vacation would have lead my co-workers to be very hardworking. Oddly it does not.

  3. Etienne:

    1. I had no idea they have La Poste in Amsterdam!

    2. If you took the time to read anything else on my site, you’d see that me entire life is centered on working to live, and not an ounce more than that.

    3. Please, please, I beg of you to show me one person who has ever been dismissed from a job. Not including the guy who bilked Soc Gen for a fortune.

    4. Your “peace of mind” has cost France its spark. 75 percent of high school seniors, when asked if they could have any job in the world what it would be, chose to work for the government because of job security. That leaves only 25 percent of your population to actually do something with their lives that can contribute to art, literature, science, the law and culture in general.

    Oh, but wait. You work for La Poste. Why am I even bothering?

  4. 1. Dutch domain names are .nl for your info.
    2. OK maybe ! but I just react to what I could read here.
    3. I could introduce you to dozens of these guys. You also give an example in your text. Your friend not being paid ? What do you think the coépanx expected from him ? Stay like this or resign ? Guess what ?
    4. I recall that survey, and so what ? Not all of them end up as fonctionnaires hopefully. Also why can’t these 75% do something for art culture etc etc etc? Really I do not get your point here. Now look at international surveys, French workers are the most productive in the world (hourly basis). Any opinion so as to why ?
    5. No i do not work for LP but spent all of my carrer in international groups so far. That does not prevent me from THINKING of where we are, where we are heading to, the kind of system I want my children NOT to live in. Sorry but it is clearly not a world where a 2 pt drop in profit vs forecasts equals 000’s people laid off (whether in France or elsewhere). It is clearly not a world where human beings are costs to be cut.

  5. Etienne,

    1. Sorry, was following your whois, which comes from an nl domain.

    2. Thank you for admitting this.

    3. Yes, her company expects her to stay, which is why she was not even allowed leave to go to a funeral! Everyone there goes to work every day, and sits there NOT BEING PAID because none of them can get out of their contracts without it costing more than the pay that is owed to them. So it’s a huge stalemate, and no one does anything.

    4. So what? SO WHAT??? We’re talking teenagers here. I find it to be a sad state of affairs if a teenager – someone who is supposed to be dreaming of the life ahead of him or her – can only think of wanting a safe job that they’ll never be fired from. Can you not see how sad that is? Teens are supposed to be dreamers. They are supposed to want the world. For a teenager to be this resigned to the life they will lead, is so very, very sad to me. There is no passion there.

    4A. Of course they are the most productive! The are never at fricking work! They’ve got to make the most of it while they are there! Hahahah I am being facetious. I have left jobs that have required me to work too much. I do not think people should be forced to work long hours. But there are people who WANT to work even one more hour a day – or, worse, are working extra hours, and not being paid for it. There are shop owners who WANT to be open longer hours, who are willing to pay their employees, but who cannot because of the hopps they must jump through to do so.

    5. I think there is a happy medium between vicious American capitalism and the French welfare state.

  6. At least we agree on point 5.
    Point 4 and so what ? maybe one teen’s dream is somewhere else ? at least different than yours and mine. There are actually many other ways to lead the world…Even though I don’t support that behavior / mindset neither, I will not dare to judge it.
    4Afacetious and extreme in the first part but I agree for the rest.
    3. Never heard of similar cases. Personnally this is hard to believe this happens in France but why not ??
    Au plaisir !!!

  7. well- on some days I agree with you. The strike left me cold…and the attitudes of some fonctionnaires is pretty bad.

    But a lot of people I know who AREN’T public servants actually have pretty crappy contracts. CDDs which last three months, then a year…and on a CDD there’s no chance of having a loan from a bank, even finding an apartment is getting impossible.

    Myself, I’ve spent ten years on crappy contracts like that and only once offerred a CDI (permanent contract). Then the company I worked for in Marseille got taken over and we got made redundant for “economic” reasons, and our jobs offered back to us as casual/vacataires paid by the hour with no job security. One friend who refused to resign later on was “mis au placard” shamelessly and threatened.

    With this system you’re on the dole every summer. this is what lots of companies do to avoid paying you your paid holidays, then rehiring you in September.

    Maybe its the milieu I move in, I don’t have many friends who are high placed cadres or managers. But I beleive there truly is a great chunk of workers who get pretty bad deals, and a growing number of workers who earn about 1300 euros a month…but then that’s a whole different topic!

  8. Like Etienne I’m really sad and shocked that some people think that no one loses his job in France, especially people who live or used to live in France. Do you read the news?

  9. I used a bit of hyperbole, and now it looks as though I’m paying the price.

    And, I’m sorry for hijacking that Venere post.

    Yes, I do read the news. But the French worker is still protected by leaps and bounds above his American counterpart.

  10. Sorry if I overreacted yesterday, but I’m French (you probably know what I mean :)) and I know many people who have lost their job including my father and other members of my family.

    And, thanks for commenting over the Venere Travel Blog. You gave our readers great tips on what to see in Rome. I live in Rome and I’m obsessed with this beautiful city too, so I really enjoyed your comment.

  11. when i was there, there were 3 simultaneous strikes- the metro, the janitors, and the Louvre. So, my hotel was dirty (actually, i think the janitor strike was probably an excuse), it meant had to literally walk across half the city to catch the train AND i couldn’t see the Mona Lisa (next time i am breaking in… i figure the security will also be on strike).

  12. Marion, loosing your job is only a big deal in France, because in this country, even with the best qualifications, its impossible to find a job. I was looking for a job for 6 months in France. I sent countless CVs, and I kept get offers from other countries (UK, Netherlands, Switzerland), but nothing at all from France, even though I only applied for posts in France! Strange. The problem is, the system is so rigid, nobody ever hires anybody, or if they do, they think it over a looong time before they do.
    It’s the same with renting a flat, actually. Almost impossible, unless you have a bank account with lots of money, a CDI with a huge income and some rich relatives. Because, once you’re renting, no way for them to throw you out, even if you don’t pay.
    It’s a very un-social system, really. The only people who benefit are those who already have jobs and a flat. All the rest get left behind …


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