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French press review 22 May 2018


There's to be a strike by French civil servants today. Expect disruption. And Paris does badly in the European air pollution rankings.

Paris is not doing well in the fight against air pollution.

Le Monde reports that the latest league table on transport and air quality released by the ecology activist group Greenpeace puts Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Oslo in the lead.

Paris is ranked seventh, outclassed by the three leaders and by Zurich, Vienna and Madrid.

But at least the French capital beats Brussels. The list is completed by Budapest, Berlin, London, Moscow and, brining up the rear, Rome.

The study took five sets of criteria into consideration . . . public transport, road security, traffic density, air quality and the availability of green spaces and cycle lanes.

Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Oslo have long been recognised as leaders in the urban cycle revolution.

Paris did well in most categories except for air quality, with only Moscow getting a worse score. And the French capital is not great for traffic. Parisians use their cars far less than the residents of any of the other capitals considered, but they spend an awful lot of time stuck in traffic jams. Le Monde says the problem is basically down to population density. They don't mention the selfish stupidity of many Paris drivers.

The guys and gals at Greenpeace want more bikes . . . only 3 percent of Parisian trips are  made on bicycle, compared to 30 percent in Copenhagen. That, they say, will help to free the French capital from the chaotic tyranny provoked by the private car. And get us all breathing safely again!

This time, it's the civil servants who won't serve

It's hardly front-page news, but France is on strike this morning. Again.

This time, it's the civil servants who won't be serving with their usual level of civility. Three big trade unions, and five or six smaller groups, have decided to unite to protest against government plans to modernise labour relations in the public sector.

The unions are worried about the way in which social dialogue (basically communication between employers and their representatives) is to be simplified, at the increasing use of short-term contracts, at potential job losses, at the way in which pay increases are to be awarded, and they don't like the government's plans for the evolution of individual careers much either.

The three largest unions will march together in Paris today, the first such show of solidarity since 2010 when the bone of contention was pension reform.

Le Monde says we can expect disruptions in schools, airports, the energy sector, hospitals and at the employment exchange.

The trains shouldn't be much affected since the rolling strike by rail workers does not re-start until this evening. That was a deliberate decision by the organisers of today's demonstrations, who don't want their white-collar claims confused with the demands of a scruffy bunch of worker johnnies.

It's just a strike, not a revolution!

Right-wing Le Figaro says today's show of union solidarity is not to be confused with the much-feared convergence of the various struggles by those who dislike the meddling of the Macron government.

Trade union representation is much stronger in the French public sector than in privately-owned businesses . . . 20 percent as opposed to 9 percent, according to Le Figaro.

And this is an election year for union representatives, so everyone wants to show the proper fighting spirit.

The conservative paper repeats government assurances that the status of civil servants is not under any threat.

Le Figaro's editorial is cookin'! Who are these people, in their protected jobs, who dare to add to the cost and confusion already caused by the series of transport stoppages? What's their problem? Their safe jobs are not at risk, neither is their purchasing power. No one wants to make them work longer.

The government simply wants to bring the French civil service up to date, says Le Figaro, to help staff and the public profit from the various technological revolutions we are living through.

France is being ruined by public spending. It is time for the nation's 5.7 million civil servants to wake up and smell the future.

Finally, the conservative paper is happy to note that five of the union groups taking part today will not be pounding the streets again next Saturday, despite an invitation by Jean-Luc Mélenchon's hard-left movement to create a national wave of discontent.

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