France

The Costs of Pension Reform

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We at Reason have been rightly warning the world of the looming pension obligation crisis facing American governments. The French government, trying some minor reform around the edges of their own coming pension crisis, runs into a sudden and severe strike crisis. The UK Guardian with the latest:

France's strikes are costing the national economy up to €400m (£355m) each day, the French finance minister said today, as workers continued to block waste incinerators in protest against a plan to raise the retirement age to 62.

Almost 9,000 tonnes of rotting piles of rubbish are becoming a health hazard in Marseille, which has been hit hard on land and at sea. Striking dockers at France's largest port are intermittently blocking ships trying to unload fuel.

Twelve striking refineries have been shut for nearly two weeks, but the protest movement appeared to weaken yesterday after workers at three refineries voted to end their walkout…

President Nicolas Sarkozy has stood firm throughout the week-long protest, insisting the reform is necessary to ensure funds for future generations as life expectancy increases and the nation's debt soars.

The bill to overhaul France's pension plan is to be definitively voted on this week by the two houses of parliament, probably by Wednesday….

Strikers were counting on derailing the measure before it is signed into law after this week's final voting.

Rubbish and petrol are critical weapons for the strikers, who say the reform is unjust. Besides raising the minimum retirement age to 62, it increases the age when full retirement benefits can be accessed from 65 to 67.

It was only in 1982 that French employees won the right to retire at 60, and since then it has been considered a well-earned right. "We aren't going to work on the docks until 65. It's just not possible," said Frederic Chabert, 47, at a Marseille port.

But having the state pay you not to work for the rest of your life might not be either, mon chere Frederic. Plus ca change and things still stay the same, as the Franglish say: a 2003 attempt to lighten the French government's pension load via increasing the number of years you had to be a state functionary to get full pension eternally also lead to angry street strikes and riots, also including a garbage-riddled Marseilles, and Reason's Matt Welch wrote about it.

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  1. Striking public sector union workers and unsustainable pensions would look like 2 birds just a stones throw a way to Ronald Reagan.

  2. Oh, no! If the cities are full of garbage, the French may begin to stink!

  3. I’d sort of like to know what non-striking private sector workers think of these protests. Are they with the protesters, or are they fed up with the horseshit?

    1. I hear all 2 people in France not on the public payroll are quite pissed.

    2. I used to think the general attitude in France would be rather supportive.
      But a French exchange student who I talked to did seem pissed:
      You can’t take the train – the union’s are on strike; you can’t put petrol in your tank – the unions are on strike. Everybody is going on strike for whatever reason.
      High school kids go on strike ’cause they get to skip school that way.
      Even the national football team went on strike during the world cup to support Anelka in his row with the coach.
      Luckily I’m in the UK now and don’t have to deal with that anymore.
      – imagine all that being said with a funny accent

      So a few trash bags and gas lines is all it takes for the French to renounce their egalitarianism? Well I do feel a sort of disappointment…

  4. France ceased to be a serious nation when the carnage of WWI was toted up.

    1. France ceased to be a serious nation when the carnage of WWI was toted up. when Napoleon got spanked.

      FTFY

  5. It seems like a bad idea to create an association between rotting piles of garbage and your political movement.

    1. Yes, that’s what gave us a bad name!

  6. France is a beautiful place. Unfortunately, it is populated with French people.

    1. Plus their women don’t shave . . .

  7. It was only in 1982 that French employees won the right to retire at 60, and since then it has been considered a well-earned right. “We aren’t going to work on the docks until 65. It’s just not possible,” said Frederic Chabert, 47, at a Marseille port.

    Of course not. What you do is sell candy to kids in parks and oggle the women in miniskirts. That’s what old foggies who cannot work the docks do everywhere else…

    1. In between drinking beer, talking about the “good old days”, and playing backgammon in the union hall.

  8. What does “as workers continued to block waste incinerators” mean? How are they blocking? I find it ironic that these States that feel the need to intrude into the lives of citizens at a drop of a hat don’t have the stomach to step up and govern at the most fundamental moment. Send in the police and “unblock” the incinerators. Sacr? bleu!

    1. “What does “as workers continued to block waste incinerators” mean?”

      They dumped too many workers into the incinerator and it got clogged up.

  9. Sounds like a good time for mass layoffs, if you ask me.

  10. Isn’t there chronically high unemployment in France? Fire these fuckers and let people who need work apply for the jobs. I have no problem with unions as long as you can fire them when they do shit like this (which I am sure is not the case in France).

    1. Yes, there is high official unemployment in France. My friend wanted to move to France with her husband that she met there, but they have to stay here in NY for now because he can’t get a job on the books in France, so he works at cheap jobs here. In France it’s like that Bruce Campbell ad for Old Spice: You can’t get it if you don’t have it already. The labor market is a caste system of people who are practically locked out of ever doing anything other than informal contracting alongside people with the same qualif’ns who are effectively grandfathered into cushy, if not very lucrative, jobs.

  11. Twelve striking refineries have been shut for nearly two weeks, but the protest movement appeared to weaken yesterday after workers at three refineries voted to end their walkout…

    Because the striking workers couldn’t get to the picket lines without gas in their own cars.

    Nest, meet fecal discharge.

  12. There are plumbers and electricians, and a few other professions, where the union provides at least some modicum of training, testing and certification. I understand that, and actually support them, but I really have trouble understanding why we need union guys to pick up trash and take it to the dump. I’m pretty sure we could grab random people out of the unemployment office, even in France, and they would be able to get the hang of it in about 10 minutes.

  13. Wow, what a blog! I mean, you just have so much guts to go ahead and tell it like it is. Youre what blogging needs, an open minded superhero who isnt afraid to tell it like it is. This is definitely something people need to be up on. Good luck in the future, man

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