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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 18:36 GMT
French strikes: Your reaction
Crowds on platform at Paris Gare du Nord metro station
French commuters have been hard-hit by the transport strikes

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to maintain his controversial economic reforms despite a second week of crippling industrial action.

Last week some BBC website users e-mailed us to tell us how they they were getting around during the transport strikes in France. We caught up with them again to discuss their views on the latest action by civil servants.

Read their previous

accounts

CARINE, LEGAL SECRETARY, PARIS

Since I last spoke to you a week ago, it's been quite bad. I've regularly had to leave home really early to get into work on time. The journey has been taking me two and half hours. Today it took me only one and a half because my boyfriend drove me to work. My boyfriend has in fact bought himself a scooter to try to beat the strikes. It's the kind of vehicle he needs for his work too because he's a private investigator.

Today's strikers have different reasons to go on strike. I don't agree with the demands of the teachers. They want a higher salary. It's true that they get paid less than they would if they worked in private schools, but they have job security and they have many more holidays than people in the private sector. But I sympathise with the teachers for other reasons - because theirs is a thankless job. Pupils these days can be very aggressive.

The strikers want to keep their privileges but they have no solution for France's problems

The students are striking because they believe the independence of universities is threatened. I believe it's good to get a bit of private capital into universities. The students are afraid that this means they'll eventually have to pay for their education - at the moment it is free.

A system where private companies and universities have better links with each other would be good. I know that in Britain, if you are studying law, you have access to and contacts with law firms so it's not so difficult finding a job afterwards. Here there is no such system - students have no contact with the job market before they leave.

All the strikers - the civil servants, the teachers, etc - want to keep their privileges but they don't have a solution for the problems that France is facing. They don't want the slightest change. Sarkozy says that civil servants who retire will not be replaced. They are striking against that but where is the money supposed to come to pay for such a large workforce?

Having said that, I work in a private company, so it's easy for me to say all this!

KEVIN PASSMORE, BRITISH ACADEMIC DOING RESEARCH IN PARIS

I'm stuck inside today. I walked to the archives yesterday and attended a seminar at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. It took me an hour to walk back home. Some of the cafes seemed to have shut early to allow staff to get home.

I approve of the strikes - I'm the sort who approves of strikes in general.

But they have been a personal disaster for me. I missed my flight back to Cardiff and had a disastrous weekend, but I still support the strikers.

The civil servants are striking against job losses and for salary increases.

Students in Aix-en-Provence - 19/11/2007
Students are also protesting over government reforms

The reason teachers and students are on strike is different. Sarkozy says that education reforms are necessary and that it means that people will work more but they'll also get paid more, but in fact, people in education are working more but earning less.

The cost of living has gone up, particularly because of petrol prices as in Britain.

It's all about privatisating the education sector, which we've had a version of, for a few years, in Britain and for longer in the United States.

Last year the students and high school teachers seemed to be on different sides because last year's demonstrations resulted in property damage and the teachers didn't want to support that.

But this year students and school teachers are on the same side, except for the higher-level, university teachers, who are probably not as supportive.

NICOLAS, BELGIAN NATIONAL, MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS IN A BIG FRENCH COMPANY

I understand the strikers less than I did the last week. The government is only trying to liberalise education and other public sector work slightly.

Once upon a time trains were coal-fired. Train drivers had to stand and stoke the coals and this affected their health and their life expectancy. The pension arrangements at that time were a fair reflection of that. But now the train practically drives itself, and the drivers sit on a stool and life expectancy is much higher. The pension arrangements have to change.

Education in France is free and it's good. It has to be paid for somehow. Students striking! They're cutting off their nose to spite their face. I know an Erasmus scholar, an exchange student, who hasn't been able to get into university to study because students are stopping people from going in. How absurd is that?

I mean I spent an absolute fortune on my education in the United States. I felt privileged to be able to study. They don't seem to value it here because it's free.

Of course I understand the anxiety of the strikers. Change is always difficult. But in France they don't want to change even a little bit. They keep resisting change till the situation becomes unsustainable and then there's a revolution.

ALEXIS DE SAINT-ALBIN, PRIVATE PENSIONS COMPANY, PARIS

I think the situation is very different from 1995 when there were huge strikes and they lasted three weeks. People were sympathetic at that time but they aren't now. My son's school was closed so my wife couldn't go to work.

She's a teacher herself but she's not on strike. She agrees that teachers don't get a good salary but she doesn't believe in striking. It's not worth it.

There is a problem with universities - people agree that they have to reform but complain that government does not put the money on table to implement those reforms. The money spent on students in France is one of smallest in Europe.

The government wants to to decrease the number of civil servants in France. That's a very good idea. I'm sure my wife agrees. There's no efficiency in the system.

I'm not fed up with the strikers yet, I travel by an automatic metro. So am not affected by the transport strikes. People are still using their cycles to get to work. It's a bit better than last week because the number of strikers smaller than before.



SEE ALSO
French protest enters sixth day
19 Nov 07 |  Europe

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