When it comes to industrial action, the French are masters at it. They seem to be able to organise mass rallies, blockades and strikes at the drop of a hat. More to the point, they don’t care how many people are affected or how much misery their actions create. Over the years they have brought roads, ports and the capital, Paris to a halt for a whole variety of reasons and the French seem to be OK with that.
Most recently, the action of the French air traffic controllers has caused chaos for travellers. French workers had already carried out three strikes since the beginning of September over proposed pension reforms that would increase the minimum retirement age to 62.
On Tuesday they called a further strike which affected our friends Glenys and Peter’s return home to Norfolk. Stranded at Alicante, they were given very little information about what was going on. Finally they were taken to a hotel for the night and flew home yesterday. Glenys said, whilst it was inconvenient for them, it was a serious problem for some passengers who had medical problems or urgent appointments to meet.
In a bid to stop all this misery, last week a number of airlines called on European governments to ban strike action by air-traffic controllers. A Ryanair spokesman estimated that strikes in Belgium, France and Spain this year had disrupted the journeys of more than 2.5 million passengers, while EasyJet estimated that the recent strikes in Europe would cost it about £6 million in compensation to passengers.
Governments facing mounting debts are between a rock and a hard place. Without fiscal reforms they risk bringing their countries to bankruptcy. However, whatever reforms are proposed; be they wage cuts, raising pension ages, cutting public services etc they are not going to be palatable but what other choices do they have?
As I see it, the problem is that none of us trust our governments, we all firmly believe that there may be other ways to make savings that they have not considered.
I have said it before, I would not want to be in politics; local, regional or national for a town hall clock. When times are good, it must be the best feeling ever (the Chilean government are currently on the crest of a wave following the rescue of the trapped miners) but you know that won’t last and something will come up sooner or later to bite them in the bum.
PS I'm not sure how "for a town hall clock" will translate into Spanish - it means that I would not want a job in politics at any price.