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FT wants French unions shot

by Jerome a Paris Sun Nov 25th, 2007 at 06:54:20 AM EST

An editorial [last] week says it all:


Sarkozy squares up to France's unions

A spaghetti western showdown between Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, and the country's big trade unions could yet live up to its billing. Mr Sarkozy, facing his biggest test since becoming leader, moved a step closer this week to forcing through contentious pension reforms without a gunfight at the Elysée. The bloodier battle may lie ahead.

Western showdown? Gunfight? Bloody battle? The breathless commentary is thick, but the idea is simple: raise the stakes in order to easily be able to exagerate the interpretation of the outcome. The gun duel analogies are clear: the goal is to kill once and for all the unions, which are obviously an obstacle - not just in this battle, but for more "reform".

Promoted by Migeru



Unions representing half a million rail, bus, metro and power workers brought Paris to a halt and crippled the transport network in a dispute over special pension rights. The government wants them to retire on a full pension after 40 years of contributions, more than at present. The reforms, aimed at cutting the cost of expensive public schemes, would bring these employees into line with everyone else.

While the strike is certainly a very real inconvenience to lots of people, it has not "brought Paris to a halt". Traffic was really bad (as opposed to just bad), and many people had to reorganise their work days. But people were at work, shops were open, bread was sold, papers were available, etc... People used bikes and scooters, or walked.

In a similarly un-neutral fashion, the pension rights are described as "special", "expensive" and "out of line with others" - without any word of context of why these companies may have a different regime (they were nationalised after WWII), why it costs money today (mostly because these are industries which have shed lots of workers and have many fewere contributing workers than benefit-drawing pensioneers), and what the special conditions (earlier retirement)- might be a quid pro quo for (24/7 service or relatively lower wages,  amongst other things).


Mr Sarkozy sees them as a first step before raising contribution periods further, possibly to 42 years for all workers. He wants to embark, too, on a shake-up of labour law that would make it easier to fire people. But the confrontation with the unions is as much about taking on leftwing conservatism as it is about France's future prosperity.

Ha yes, the long term goals - make people work longer, and make it easier to fire them - the holy grail of "flexibility" - which always means only one thing: cheaper, more pliable workers.

Spending the evening with family and neighbors yesterday, this came up, and my interlocutors repeated the same points: "we live longer and need to work longer or else we'll go bankrupt" "the rail workers have it really, really easy, it's a scandal that they can retire so early" "I see [family member] who has worked all her life, and will need to work 42 years to get a pension, and het taxes are paying for these pampered train drivers". Bad news: the propaganda works. Slightly better news: after some explanations, they understood that the underlying stakes in the conflict might not be as simple as they thought (my argument: [family member] has to work more because there are no unions in the private sector in France, and nobody is fighting for her. If the only group that does have strong unions - railway workers - is defeated, then of course they will lose, but soon afterwards other will pay the consequences, in the form of yet more years of work to deserve a pension, lower wages etc... and [family member], with nobody to defend her, will be an especially easy target.

The lesson: the propaganda of the FT et al needs to be debunked each time. Something that we could afford in the tough years after WW2 should not cripple us today, and should not be described as "too expensive" or "unaffordable" - not their defense can be labelled as "conservative, as the FT tries yet again to do.

A slightly more positive lesson: the language in France is also still more protective: workers' rights are described as "acquis sociaux" ("acquired social rights" - just like the EU "acquis communautaire") - there is an inherent ratchet concept, ie one should not go back on rights that constitute progress.

Workers rights as progress, and not as cost, is the rhetoric we need.


Industrial action was dragging on on Friday, despite an agreement to resume talks. The unions, however, are isolated. France may have a long tradition of street power, but public sympathy today is in short supply. Unlike in 1995, when Jacques Chirac's first government tried similar reforms and backed down in the face of opposition, voters support Mr Sarkozy's plans. They are fed up with subsidising generous benefits.

There is no agreement to resume talks, as the government is currently insisting that no talks will take place as long as strikes as continuing. It is true that the current strike appears less popular than the 95 one (but the 95 strike was not initially very popular either), and that reflects some success in labelling workers' pensions  "subsidised generous benefits."


For the president, the initial union climbdown is a symbolic breakthrough. Crucially, he has not given ground on the headline issue - the move to a 40-year contribution period. The unions, divided internally, are weakened. Mr Sarkozy can claim some credit for a behind-the-scenes charm offensive. He is right, too, to tell employers, not ministers, to lead negotiations.

As I noted in the Sarkozy Method a couple of days ago, the initial climbdowns were on both sides, as noted by the FT, which chose to focus in its headlines only on one side of it (and that has obviously already become conventional wisdom - never underestimate the power of headlines). But even if, on substance, the railway workers might end up not losing anything, the only thing that matters is the symbol of a "reform" victory, and that of a president willing and able to take on the unions. and, on that, I agree with the FT that the symbolic presentation of what happens does matter for the future.


However, by leaving the details to company bosses, Mr Sarkozy becomes vulnerable to failure at a later stage. The flaw in his strategy is that the reforms risk being hollowed out by the concessions employers have begun to draw up. These include a broader definition of "final salary" to include bonuses and other payments when calculating pension values. Other benefits may be on offer. The final package will lack weight if it just substitutes one set of costs with another.

This means, in effect, that the FT considers the symbolic victory a done deal already (after all, it to a large extent depends on their own editorial choices in covering the conflict), but that they want more - they want total anihilation of the unions and the workers. The Sarkozy method, which focuses on headlines but lets things slip on substance, is not good enough for them - capitulation is required.


Mr Sarkozy won power with a pledge to get France moving. This means curbing profligate spending.

No, he won by playing the immigration fear card. He won the over-60s. He won on promising growth and increased spending power.

and, as we know from the UK and the US, growth comes from increased public spending, not from lower public spending...

.. but hey, let's repeat the "drown government in a bathttub" mantra anyway.


The president has a reputation as a dealmaker. But, if he is to succeed where others have failed, he cannot allow unions to pick and choose à la carte. That would undermine his credibility. A solution may have to be imposed for more radical changes to proceed. If so, the saloon bar shoot-out has only been deferred.

A solution may have to be imposed?? What on earth does that mean? Imposed by whom? They want capitulation, but what exactly are they insinuating? A state of emergency to end the strike? Sending the military?

"Radical changes" are needed, indeed.

Display:
What the FT wants is for Sarkozy to treat the French unions as Thatcher treated the National Union of Mineworkers. Even if the strike lasts six months and causes considerable hardship and economic dislocation if the power of the unions can be broken once and for all, then further outrages can be perpetrated without difficulty.

Of course France is different from Britain and the French unions are mounting a broader front challenge than Arthur Scargill could ever have done.

I suspect the FT's advice and analysis does not really have much relevance to the real issues in France.

by Gary J on Sat Nov 17th, 2007 at 01:30:45 PM EST
has all the relevant parallels, of course:


Sarkozy's Thatcher moment - Why Nicolas Sarkozy cannot afford to yield to French strikers

(...)  This is being talked of as Mr Sarkozy's Thatcher moment. Parallels with the iron lady as she faced down Britain's coalminers in 1984-85 are inexact. Yet Mr Sarkozy is being watched closely in other continental European countries whose readiness to reform seems to have faded (German rail unions have also been on strike this week). More than the future of France is at stake.

(...) In a political system that emasculates parliament and gives the president quite extraordinary power, public protests are one of the few avenues for genuine opposition. Yet the latest strikes are cruder in purpose than this observation implies. Far from representing a broad-based opposition, they stand for the narrow bloody-mindedness of vested interests determined to protect their excessive privileges.

(...)

Mr Sarkozy has also chosen his battlefield with some skill. He wants to attack many privileged groups, but is starting with the most egregious. The special regimes are inordinately generous, allowing many workers to retire on full pensions at the age of 55, and some as early as 50. (...)

(...) although Mr Sarkozy has embraced the case for change, his instincts are not at all those of a free-market Thatcherite. He displays too many of the traditional French predilections: a belief in a big role for the state, a partiality for (often state-owned) national champions, a mistrust of the benefits of unfettered competition.

Above all, Mr Sarkozy is by nature a deal-maker, a man disposed always to look for compromise. Sometimes that is an advantage. But in the confrontation that he now faces, it is not. In the summer he watered down plans for university reform; he has just offered special tax breaks to striking fishermen. He cannot afford to back away similarly from his promised reforms to the public sector and the labour market, even in the face of prolonged strikes. It would be an exaggeration to say that this is France's last chance to change. But as the appetite for economic reform wanes across Europe, it is the last that is likely to come for a long time.

No compromise, or reform is dead. A very Bushite outlook. A very ideological one. A very fanatical one.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 17th, 2007 at 01:56:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Staring-eyed loony fanatical.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 17th, 2007 at 04:09:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Showing how much of the propaganda is pervasise is this pretty amazing catch by afew in this morning's Guardian:


Transport workers' unions voted yesterday to keep a national strike going through the weekend to protest at President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to strip away generous pension benefits, union officials said.

Journalists have been so well trained to call pension benefits "generous", or "unaffordable", or something similarly denigrating, that they adjunct these adjectives to the word even in sentences where it's absurd.

It's still pretty sad to see that in the Guardian. It's not completely surprising to see the FT explicitly take a side which is easy to presume is also that of its readership, but ... the Guardian?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 17th, 2007 at 01:41:38 PM EST
Well Jérôme, I fully agree with the existence of a bias in how things are presented, and loathe the way Sarkozy seeks confrontation everywhere.

Now, in your heart of hearts, do you personally think that the SNCF pension system is not generous? Or, to look at the general pay package, that bonuses for kilometers travelled include a no-bonus bonus so that it is paid even when no kilometers are travelled -during holidays- is not on the generous side?

Yes, there is bias, the word "generous" without explanation is an invitation to take side. I would, though, not call it inaccurate, especially compared to the normal pension system. Maybe "comparatively generous" then.

Having said that, I'm not happy with the way Sarkozy went into this -he was clearly seeking confrontation.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 03:06:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A larger part of their salary comes in the form of contribution towards pension plans than for most people. But apparently, agreeing to a larger pension in exchange of a smaller salary is generous from the company.

Wages of SNCF drivers don't seem particularly generous, even including the added income that comes from the comparatively higher pension benefits. Yes, part of the pay package has strange denominations. And ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 03:21:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, this is where we differ. I don't think wages of train drivers are ungenerous at all (nor in fact wages of most SNCF employees, but only drivers get to retire at 50) -especially on a comparative basis.
I would like everyone to be wealthy of course. But if you compare SNCF with similarly qualified jobs with similar difficulties (nurses for example? although they are more qualified than most SNCF positions) they seem to have far, far more generous conditions.


Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 04:36:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or you can compare it to realtors who are getting much higher wages, often without qualification.

The closest job comparable to TGV driver is probably that of plane pilot... which have much more generous benefits. (and unlike plane pilots, train drivers are supposed to repair their trains on the fly in case of of problem).

And SNCF has difficulties recruiting, because of the very weird hours, (like nurses employers), which is another way to show that it is not that generously compensated...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 05:20:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your link says nothing about SNCF having trouble recruiting. It is a recruitment brochure, merely indicating that they are recruiting. I have a friend who joined SNCF lately, her view was rather the opposite, it was the joining that was very difficult, there were so many candidates.

As for comparing a TGV driver to an airline pilot, I think this convinces me for good that you are not of good faith. It's far closer to a long distance bus driver, although if you multiply people travelling by likelihood of an accident, the bus driver has more responsibility and a more exacting job. Not that he gets paid as much or retires at 50...

Can this topic ever be discussed honestly or must it always be propaganda on either side?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 05:28:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I want to see the long-distance bus driver who is responsible for 400 passengers, drives 420 tons at 320 km/h, takes no toilet breaks, and wakes at 2am. And what about suburban train or freight train drivers. Speaking of discussing in bad faith and issuing propaganda...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 05:59:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's far closer to a long distance bus driver, although if you multiply people travelling by likelihood of an accident, the bus driver has more responsibility and a more exacting job. Not that he gets paid as much or retires at 50...

Surely figuring in likelyhood of an accident is dubious at best, if not interlectually dishonest. If a train driver is better trained or more skilled and so has less accidents then surely he deserves to be better paid, rather than it be decided that he is worth less.

As for deciding the bus driver has more responsibility, I've yet to see the Bus that carries 2 to 3 hundred pssengers. plus if one driver runs slowly, he can wreck the timetables of the whole network.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 05:59:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The train driver is not alone responsible for higher train safety, but it is certainly true that following safety rules is more stringently required and controlled, as well as a larger part of the job. Meanwhile, if there is an accident, much more people are at risk and the kinetic energy to be absorbed in the crash is orders of magnitudes greater.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 06:52:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a couple hundreds ? A TGV driver can transport up to 1090 passengers. A RER driver can transport legally probably 2630 passengers, and I bet the RER A is very often filled over capacity...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 07:04:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The maximum capacity with two SNCF-version MI2Ns is even 2674. If you couple two six-part Z 5600 trains, one train driver even gets the responsibility for a theoretical maximum of 3282 passengers. (Tho' I'm not sure I saw such a combination on the RER C or RER D.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 07:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Was taking the smallest train I could think of

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 10:07:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, then the UK rail system has indeed cut service more than I thought... It's not that hard to find trains with one or two dozens passengers in southern Europe...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 10:24:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did assume it was full ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 10:36:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, there are two-axle single-car railcars that do have a capacity around that of a bus.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:01:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's so different between an airline pilot and TGV driver? The reason for prestige of one, and not of the other, is historical rather than about qualification differences. Trains used to mean handling coal and thus meant working class, whereas planes used to be the heir of horses, of ships, the instrument of nobility and officers, and thus was associated with upper classes. But what is different between the button-pushing of piloting a modern planes (which in effects pilots itself) and that of piloting a modern train ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 06:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You remind me of another dimension: most train drivers who'd be around to retire at 50 now have even tougher prior service on less modern locos in their bones. (Pre-air-conditioning, stage-switching electrics were more hard and stressful than today's too.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 06:59:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, what about the number of dimensions you operate within? Three for a plane, one for a train.

The low likelihood of crashes even compared to a bus does not come from supreme training but from the much more limited possibilities to create an accident. A family friend once drove a TGV -he is in fact a medical doctor (don't ask me how he convinced the train driver to let him do so -but he did. Without training. I don't think he would have been able to fly a plane or even drive a bus).

No, multiplying by the probability of an accident is not dishonest, otherwise you may argue that a museum keeper has more health and safety responsibility because there are more people in the museum than in a plane or a train. If an accident is well nigh impossible, you are not in a situation where a small mistake can spread disaster. Most of the time, a TGV driver would have trouble creating a crash if he tried. A bus driver must take corners, drive on mountain roads, has lots of visibility problems, can fall victim of an exploding tyre...

And it's not just about prestige for the planes either. A jet pilot must be able to land a 4 reactors plane with a single reactor left. What would possibly be the equivalent on a TGV?

As for long distance bus drivers (or jet pilots) at 2am, it's far more frequent than TGV drivers! I don't see too many TGVs during the night. But when my orchestra went to Poland, well, we were driving through the night, as in every trip that outlasts a day.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 07:13:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, it's not that hard to crash a train. And again, I know of no plane pilot who has to repair the brakes of his plane. Or has to go down on the pathway of objects moving at 300 km/h, as TGV drivers are sometimes asked to do. That is equivalent to landing in very hard conditions (for which planes are much better designed than trains, and for which pilots receive very adequate training after they are hired).

Actually piloting planes is not that hard mid-flight ; that was proven 6 years ago.

The reasons pilots are handsomely compensated is not difficulty of task, or high responsibility, but rather the fact that they have some of the best unions around. And this is changing with the appearance of low-cost carriers.

That's why coach drivers (urban bus drivers often have SNCF-like compensation), who work for many small companies, or nurses (description of the problem here, ) are not.

SNCF compensations are what you can get, when your profession doesn't have direct access to the money supply of the company, and are reasonably well organised in asking for the raises. Nurses are an example of what you can get without proper organisation. What you can get with really good unions is exemplified by, say, book workers, in France. What you get with access to the money supply is exemplified by the banking convention collective.

Of course, nowadays, when neo-liberals are the one with media access, they are pushing the line that SNCF workers are the ones who are "generously compensated", whereas it is the nurses, or John BusDriver, who never goes on strike, who isn't adequately compensated, because he never collectively asked for a raise with the proper arguments - those of withdrawing work.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 07:59:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A family friend once drove a TGV -he is in fact a medical doctor (don't ask me how he convinced the train driver to let him do so -but he did.

So what? Did your family friend watch the signals, or did the locomotive driver continue to do so? Ditto about the wake signal? Does he even know the railway signal book? Traffic dispatcher and order-giving rules? The TGV's brake percentages? Could he stop the train at the platform, or depart? Could he recognise a motor failure, or know what to do when the aggregator for air conditioning is defect? I can 'hold' the throttle on an airplane, in fact children can do when the pilot lets them in, and that's not even forbidden. (BTW, personally I think that TGV driver who let your family friend in would deserve to be fired.)

Most of the time, a TGV driver would have trouble creating a crash if he tried.

Heh. In the case of a TGV, that's true apart from stations, because the automatic a safety systems are so elaborate. But that only means that would a TGV driver attempt to create trouble, the train would stop.

A bus driver must take corners, drive on mountain roads, has lots of visibility problems, can fall victim of an exploding tyre...

A freight train driver must negotiate tight curves and switches, drive on mountain lines, has lots of visibility problems (with the brake distances trains have, every train driver has lots of visibility problems), and can fall victim to a broken wheel tyre, broken rail, failed brakes (especially on a descent), another train in his route after a signal error, landslides into his right-of-way, and bus drivers crossing the red light.

A jet pilot must be able to land a 4 reactors plane with a single reactor left. What would possibly be the equivalent on a TGV?

Stopping a train with 75% of the braking disconnected. And that's pretty critical. Or initiate braking when you have 1 second for that and jumping out of the train ahead of a collision.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:15:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, of course something CAN happen. But you must get back to 1988 to come up with an example of casualties in a crash in France, and it was not a TGV. Buses drop off a cliff every year. Talk about comparable likelihood...

Yes, our family friend was watching the signals, he happened to know them. He did not stop it at the platform because he realised through this driving that he had a sight problem : so he stopped the train, thinking that he had no right of way, because he saw the sign wrong. Which is crazy -but proves that he could stop the train at least. Try landing a 747, just for fun.

As for visibility problems, I meant when you CANNOT see in the direction where you are going. A train has only one dimension. It is not the same challenge at all -just check the statistics.

Stopping a train with a quarter of the braking power is really, really not comparable to landing with one reactor in 4. To start with, you don't have the problem that you start rotating...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:26:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you must get back to 1988 to come up with an example of casualties in a crash in France

Huh!? Where are you taking this? Just one example:

Accident ferroviaire de Zoufftgen - Wikipédia

L'accident ferroviaire de Zoufftgen s'est produit le 11 octobre 2006, vers 11 h 45 à Zoufftgen en Moselle, à une vingtaine de mètres de la frontière entre le Luxembourg et la France. Il s'agit d'une collision frontale entre deux trains qui a fait six morts et un blessé grave.

Which is crazy -but proves that he could stop the train at least.

You mean, he stopped the train on the open line? That indeed is crazy, I wonder how the locomotive driver got away with it. But it doesn't follow that your family friend could sto at a platform, i.e. knlow the proper braking distance and also achieve it (and that in any weather).

I meant when you CANNOT see in the direction where you are going.

That happens a) in fog, b) in curves, c) in rain or snow if you need to see far, d) in the night for unilluminated objects not too close. I am not sure what statistics you refer to or are even relevant.

To start with, you don't have the problem that you start rotating...

LOL. Curving line on a downgrade? (One of the worst accidents in railway history: a French captain forced a train driver to continue with a train packed full of WWI soldiers from the Italian front on Christmas front leave.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:51:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Last lethal crash was one year ago...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:51:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After some thinking, I guess you mention statistics still under the assumption that they somehow compare risk between bus and train drivers.

However, that ain't true. It's just that trains have more fail-safe systems and controls on drivers. I.e., if they don't check the brakes or ignore a signal, the train stops or the stationmaster calls them out, if a bus driver does the same, the bus lands in a gorge or collides with a train. It's not that the bus driver has to watch out more.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 12:07:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference is real, and huge.

In stormy weather, on an instrument approach to De Gaulle in a vehicle operating independently of any track in three dimensional space- a vehicle with a speed in the transition zone well beyond the top end for the fastest TGV--
In the world's most heavily populated air traffic environment, the pilot will fly a complex approach involving, often, dozens of changes of heading and altitude, changes of speed, of aircraft configuration, all the while communicating with and responding to typically four different radio control facilities,
En route
Approach
Tower
Ground
--- while at the same time executing multiple check lists and maintaining a mental picture of the field, the terrain, the aircraft angle of attack vs. speed equation (a life-or-death matter), our chauffer will feel his way to the runway end and "grease it on", if he is really good (and lucky)- while creating in his head a mental map of the field's complex taxiways so he or she doesn't turn off at the wrong goddamn runway exit. I speak from experience there.
After a night approach in gusty, icy weather, every approach is a clean-shirt deal- to hide the sweat stains. Never, never to be admitted to others, of course.  

I suggest that the heavy-qualified airplane driver is performing an act of real-time skill and judgment that approaches the absolute limits of what humans can do.

Also, Every Cat III approach (could be fully automatic) is monitored and in reality hand flown- hands on or near the controls, even when the autopilot is on-

I have the greatest respect for the TGV driver- or the driver of the local freight. I have shared at least a bit of his or her world, I think.
Pay the hell out of them, and don't bitch.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Nov 25th, 2007 at 08:29:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, realtors... it's a commercial job. If you sell a lot, then yes you will get more money. If not, you won't. PLUS it's in the tail end of a bubble. So yes they've had some good years, now many will be laid off. Not very comparable to SNCF.

As for qualifications, yes there are people with more qualifications than realtors at SNCF. There are, though, many more with less.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 05:30:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm interested, what do realtors do that is intrinsically worth more than train drivers?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 06:46:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did I say anything like that? No, I never did.
Besides, we would need to define "worth". The train system cannot operate for a profit. So some people may argue that it's worth nothing. I would strongly disagree with them of course.

No, I'm all for public transport and agree that it is very important. Most jobs just are not very hard (in term of competence) to do. Sometimes you have tough hours, which is a pain, but then 25 hours of work in a week (TGV driver) is not exactly taxing, so it sort of compensates. Besides, far from all SNCF jobs require a 2am alarm clock. All, though, have lots of bonuses and early retirement. All have employment for life and no competition.

Nurses do something worth at least as much as train drivers, they work longer hours, with very inconvenient times. Compensation is rarely a direct link to what something is "worth", with no effect from how many people able to do it or for commercial positions (such as realtors), how good you are at it.
Maybe it would be good if it were the case, but then you'd need a system that applies to everyone, not just SNCF. You'd also have to find a fair outcome for the people who could not get the low competence but worth a lot job simply because there were way too many candidates. As is the case for SNCF...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 07:23:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No you didn't, but you did say that If you sell a lot, then yes you will get more money. If not, you won't,  sort of implying that as you think that train drivers don't deserve the compensation they have, then they don't work hard. Now I know you didn't actually say that, but the implication is lieing about.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 10:13:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely no such implication.
Simply, commercial jobs, usually, have a small fixed salary with a big variable part.

In a bubble, you are likely to get a big variable part. You are also FAR more likely to be fired when it deflates than is you work at SNCF. So it's only to be expected that in a housing bubbles, some realtors could make quite a lot.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:17:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Besides, far from all SNCF jobs require a 2am alarm clock.

Sure, there are desk jobs, ticket sellers and conductors. But then traffic controllers, shunting crews and freight train drivers do night shifts, maintenance shop workers have an alarm clock set even earlier than locomotive drivers, in fact some work only by night. By why did you took TGV drivers as example previously?

but then 25 hours of work in a week (TGV driver)

From this, I guess you are channelling an attack article circling on the French web. It is a crude spin: 25 hours is the driving time, not the work time, the work time is 35 hours like for hte rest.

Le Web des Cheminots [ www.cheminots.net ] - votre forum de discussion entre cheminots, agents SNCF et passionnés des chemins de fer

Un temps de travail annualisé
Alors, fainéants les cheminots ? En décembre, le directeur de l'Ile-de-France a mis les pieds dans le plat, affirmant que les conducteurs de RER travaillaient « 182 jours par an [...] pour une durée de service de six heures en moyenne » . A la SNCF, le temps de travail - 35 heures, calculé à la minute près - est annualisé. Certaines semaines ont six jours, d'autres deux. Mais on travaille le week-end, les jours fériés, à Noël (ou le jour de l'An), et l'on « découche » plusieurs fois par semaine. Précision : un conducteur ne conduit pas 35 heures. « Sur une journée de 7-8 heures, je fais 4 heures, calcule un conducteur TGV. Le reste du temps il faut préparer la machine. Un train, ça ne se démarre pas comme une voiture ! »


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:00:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was channelling nothing. I was quoting an SNCF director who came to school to present his company.

Previously, I had mentioned drivers because they only get to retire at 50.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:12:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then he wasn't speaking about absolute work-hours either. And you focused in on TGV drivers. It may also be that that SNCF directors' speech and reading a quote of this somewhere mixed up in your memory:

Horaire de travail: 25 heures par semaine (vive les 35 heures)

At any rate, if retiring at 50 is your main problem, I'd welcome if you would consider commuter train, freight train and regional train drivers, too...

I note for comparison that in Germany, there is no separate retirement age for locomotive drivers, but less than 5% reach the official retirement age, most go out after failing medical checks 20-30 years into service. That's quite comparable to the French limit of 50.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:37:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know about France, but in Germany, according to SPIEGEL, here is a comparison with other tough or early-wake-up or transport jobs:

Locomotive drivers now: as low as €1500
Locomotive drivers from 2008: €1821-2179 (I guess the difference between management offer and trade union demand is involved)
Construction machine drivers: €2310-2522
Roofers: €2415-2604
Long-distance truck drivers: €1733-1793
Cleaners: €1607-1762
Miner squad chiefs: €2475-2512
Bakers: €1518-1700
Postmen: €1740-2183
Caretakers (nurses) for old people: €1575-2081
Steel smelter worker: €1430

Note that airline pilots' pay is often scaled according to the number of potential passengers (e.g. seats) they are responsible for.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 05:56:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe the answer should be to fight for better conditions for nurses, then, rather than worse conditions for train drivers? Or do you accept the rights assertions that 'we must all work longer hours and more years' to 'save the system from bankrupcy'. Is the need for more, greater, better profits, in a more greater better liberalised reformed 'economy' to the liking of the financial 'services' 'industry' really inevitable and inarguable? Are you a supporter of the race to the bottom? Shall we go out to find the most disadvataged employment group and insist that everyone else accept those same conditions, because, after all, it's only fair that no one should benefit better than others. As long as those benefits can be seen as illegitimate workers privileges at the bottom of the pile, since under no circumstance should 'competitive' pay at the top be under similar public scrutiny?

(None of your biddniss what we pay 'em CEOs and traders and analysts and market players, or how they are taxed. After all, where would the money go to instead? Spoilt train drivers???)

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 06:15:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a complete strawman argument. The topic was not about tax breaks for super rich people, which do incense me, hence I did not talk about that.

I do think that a retirement at 50 for all, with bonuses aplenty during the working years, years during which you work something between 25 to 32 hours, is not workable barring huge levels of taxation, economic isolation, and a huge cut on production. Do you think otherwise? Would you care to explain to me what realistic system of taxation would make it possible?

Until you do, I'll assume that this system is not possible for all. Therefore, calling it comparatively generous is not exactly libertarian. Implying that I would be a brainwashed supporter of UMP is rather funny since it is opposition to UMP that made me get involved in politics...

And I'm all for improving life for nurses. And for a huge list of professions. Now, the thing is, giving EVERYONE a 10% increase is the same as doing nothing at all, because you have merely increased the quantity of money but not changed the quantity of goods...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 07:35:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Train drivers are not paid through taxation, and SNCF is nowadays making a profit, so this system is economically workable, at least for them.

A lot of people, a bit less than half workers, are getting above median wage. It's pretty hard for everyone to be paid above median wage, thus people being paid above above median wage should not protest when their generous compensation is being cut... That's the gist of your argument. Deciding to be compensated in the form of an earlier retirement age (rather than higher wages, as most do) ought to be a possibility. SNCF workers are the one that accepted higher contributions from their wages to make their earlier retirement possible. Their early retirements are not financed through taxation, nor collective contributions.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 08:12:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a complete strawman argument.
And so was yours bringing up the nurses as an argument in favour of reducing compensations for train drivers. Look, I would be for taking an honest look at working hours, retirement details, etc. If I thought it would be an honest look. As in, we (the people) ought to have the option to consider productivity growth translating to shorter work-time commitments and, yes, along with that, fewer toys, and slower development of toys.

I see huge cuts of production as necessary for the 'west' to live within its means. And huge cuts in the externalisation of costs, in particular when those externalities are in effect off-shored to developing nations. Maybe we should not look to increase the quantity of goods, but rather the quantity of free time? Maybe all the noise about 'accelerated rates' of 'growth' being beneficial and good and necessary ought to be examined as well?

To what end are we pursuing 'growth'? I remain unconvinced the striving for the most 'dynamic' most 'innovative', most 'productive' 'economy' (or whatever are the buzzwords of today), when this seems to translate in a large part to an exploitative, resource heavy, pollution producing, worker abusing, greed promoting 'society'. And, no, I don't buy the idea that we need growth to have a healthy 'economy', and that this is an end in itself. The 'economy' is there in the service of the people, not the other way around. And, no, I don't think we need more job creation. (A benefit often pointed to as an argument for 'market' 'liberalisation' and 'reform'.) I think we need less time spent at work, and a more equal distribution of that work. Some amount of economic isolationism might be a good idea in the pursuit of the less work intensive society. I don't have a problem with high levels of taxation.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 08:14:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A strawman argument is coming up with something that frightens but does not really exist.

So, you are saying that nurses don't really exist. Congratulations.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:33:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it is coming up with something irrelevant to the issue at hand. I.e. nurses' compensation against train driver privilege.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Tue Nov 20th, 2007 at 02:23:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Straw man - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.[1] To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent. Often, the straw man is set up to deliberately overstate the opponent's position.[1] A straw man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact a misleading fallacy, because the opponent's actual argument has not been refuted.


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 07:27:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A solution may have to be imposed?? What on earth does that mean?

Anyone with even only a nodding acquaintance with US labor history knows what that means: breakout the machine guns, rifles, bayonets, and the goons.  

I hope the meaning is somewhat less ... drastic ... in France.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Nov 17th, 2007 at 03:49:41 PM EST
France has a large and well-trained corps of riot police.

Better PR than sending in the army.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 17th, 2007 at 04:13:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A large and well trained corps of riot-police... half of which was technically part of the army as they were gendarmes...
Surely that's worth a bit of spin.

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine
by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Sat Nov 17th, 2007 at 04:25:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Umm . . . this is NEWS?  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 12:02:58 AM EST
Are you talking about the FT's editorial (which is opinion, not news), or my own diary (also opinion, or maybe analysis, rahter than news)?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 11:22:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See comment title.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 11:26:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gaianne is saying that my post is unnecessary?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 11:43:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think she was using a rethorical ploy to indicate that FT has, pretty often, a rather extreme anti-union position.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 03:10:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid I'm going to chime in pretty much against the CW here.

Let me state en vrac:

I'm totally opposed to privatization of public assets and the looting of same and the public enrichment of a tiny minority that has happened during same elsewhere, and now threatens France under Sarkozy.

Because of the strikes, my 75-year-old Mom has to walk three hours a day to run her business, and I have a friend who normally commutes from Fontainebleau to the 10ème arrondissement, who can't go to work at all.

I'm not convinced at all by the Unions' / Strikers' arguments about pensions (and oddly neither are the locals in my Socialist hot bed) -- we know the Government is up to no good and we should be against it, granted, but here we have what seems to be a just war for the wrong causes.

(I note that the Singapore Airlines pilot who flew that boondoggly super Airbus A-something or other back to Singapore last month was like 60+-year-old, so either Singapore Airlines is mad as a hatter or you can comfortably press buttons in a TGV past 50.)

I'm not in favor of public strikes and I supported Reagan when he fired the air controllers, though the way he went about it, especially afterwards, was unnecessarily harsh.

Of course it's ridiculous to suggest using the cannons on the boulevards, Napoleon III is history, but I would support the government if there were legal measures taken against the strikers.

by Lupin on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 04:17:39 AM EST
...though the way he went about it, especially afterwards, was unnecessarily harsh.
Oh, no Lupin, I think you got that one wrong: it was not unnecessarily harsh; this, actually, was the very point of Reagan's action: not to merely score a victory against the unions, but to destroy them, to annihilate them, and beyond, all the labor movement in the country, to ensure complete and total domination of the conservative ideology.

Same thing for Thatcher; we can see the results today in Iraq as well as back home...

And this is precisely what the FT is calling for on the French unions with all its weekend warrior rhetoric, urging, no, demanding Sarkozy's total mobilization in this GWOT (Global War On Trade unions), short of using WMDs (maybe next week?)

I don't like workers in essential public services making the rest of the public unwilling collateral damage in their conflict with their employer & the government anymore that you do, but I have no illusion on what the Sarkozy and FT crowd's ultimate target is: regular folks like you and me, and your 75-year old mom...

Have had any snow in the Pyrénées yet?

by Bernard on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 05:07:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, there are talking about opening ski stations this week-end.

I am not in favor of destroying unions who provide a valuable counterweight.

I am also in favor of fighting the transfer of public assets and wealth to the "nomenklatura".

But equally, I am against the kind of strikes we're having, as I was against the air traffic controllers' strike.

I have no idea about the legal mechanisms regarding docking pay and replacing striking workers, but I'm afraid that when it comes to public services, I'm not opposed to such mechanisms.

I also think that in this case, they're striking for the wrong reasons, but that's just me.

by Lupin on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 06:15:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Strikers are not paid, unless that is a result of the negotiations ending the strikes.

Replacing striking metro drivers is a dumb idea. Read about the Malbone Street Wreck.

As for striking for true or wrong reasons, it is theirs to decide.

If striking public service workers wreck such disarray in people's lives and the economy, maybe it is because they are more useful than we believe - and maybe they need better compensation if their marginal productivity is so high. They are asking better compensation under the form of earlier retirement, which is a way of getting it.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 10:35:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At one point, the public is responsible for the people it elects - as long as we call our system democratic, "we the people" are responsible for what our government does. The French public is in effect the boss of the public service transport workers. I don't mind it to be affected by strikes.

If we consider it to be "essential public service" in the way the army is an essential public service, then maybe the transport workers should have as generous retirement benefits as soldiers ; their benefits kick in as early as at 40...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 10:27:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The one indicator that Sarkozy does not care about the privileges of a minority, but about the symbol is that he appears perfectly willing to give in on substance discreetly provided that he can claim that he look as if he broke the unions in the headlines (for instance by "sticking to the principle" of the 40 years of work, even if he separately agrees to change the details of the pension calculation formula to compensate the workers for that).

This is all about grabbing a free hand to significantly alter workers' rights in the rest of the economy, where they have no way to defend themselves - and one can see the argument already: "even the militant railway workers came to their senses and acknowledged the urgency of 'reform' by agreeing to work more, how can you refuse to do the same?"

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 06:19:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(I note that the Singapore Airlines pilot who flew that boondoggly super Airbus A-something or other back to Singapore last month was like 60+-year-old, so either Singapore Airlines is mad as a hatter or you can comfortably press buttons in a TGV past 50.)

Ah come on, that's so crude as if it came from an attack ad. Airline pilots don't have to regularly stand up at 2am, don't have to permanently watch the signals (and step on the wake-signal) during their flight, and have certainly more comfort than even TGV drivers (including the hotels they stay in, I note). Not to mention, incomparison with commuter train drivers, constant stops and watching out for car drivers at level crossings. There are train drivers who say drive high-speed nostalgic trains past 60, but I rather not have them on permanent normal service.

And, as pointed out before in discussions you apparently read, if you'd want later retirement and/or reduced pensions for train drivers, you have to compensate that with higher pay or else you're shafting them compared to what they signed up for when taking the job.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 08:59:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, that Singapore Airlines pilot was not 60+ but 56:

Professional Pilot News: Capt. Robert Ting: PIC of A380 inaugural commercial flight

The pilot in command (PIC) of this week's inaugural commercial flight of the A380 was Singapore Airlines Captain Robert Ting...

The 56 year old Singaporean joined Singapore Airlines in 1971, and has logged over 15,000 flying hours. Captain Ting holds eight different type ratings.

(Airbus's chief test pilot is 61, though.) Speaking of trade unions and Singapore Airlines:

More pay for pilots moved to fly A380: SIA pilots union

SIX months after the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) ruled that Singapore Airlines pilots who fly the Airbus 380 superjumbo should be paid more than those who sit in the cockpit of other aircraft, the airline and its pilots' union were back in court on Monday.

This time, it was to settle a difference in opinion over a particular clause in the earlier judgement which was delivered in May, following a year-long dispute.

...What SIA and the Air Line Pilots Association-Singapore (Alpa-S) cannot agree on now, is what happens to B777 and A345 pilots who move to the A380 fleet.

They should be treated no different from B747 pilots, SIA says, and that means a $700 pay jump or higher if necessary, to take them to the minimum starting pay for the A380.

Alpa-S does not agree. It argues that the court ruled only with regards to B747 pilots and not B777 and A345 pilots who have a minimum starting pay of $9,300 for captains.

Union president Captain P James told Justice Chan Seng Onn on Monday that based on company policy, B777 and A345 pilots who move to the A380 fleet should receive a promotional increment, which has always been set at the difference between the minimum salaries of the fleet they are on, and the fleet they are moving to.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 09:30:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand you commiserate with the two cases you know, but taking that all the way to an anti-labor opinion, without clear information, seems like jumping the grand canyon.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 10:04:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm struggling with the issue, personally, and for the very reason that I sympathize with people like your mom.

That said, the unions have every right to strike.  And, being from a region of America in which union-busting, sometimes even in a violent fashion, has historically been the norm, I'm inclined to side with the unions.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 10:16:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's remember what the ultimate outcome of this crap is: people like Lupin's mother won't have access to public transport.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 10:42:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you mean by "this crap", and by "the ultimate outcome of this crap"? You are jumping too many intermediate steps for me to be certain of what you mean (and I'm kind of used to your pithy comments).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 11:14:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarko's fight against railway unions? To me the point is obvious: if Sarko gets his way against the strikers who now force Lupin's mother to wealk three hours instead of using public transport, he could later get his way in eliminating 'loss-making' public transport lines, and then Lupin's mom will have to walk whether there is a strike or not.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 11:31:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the first instance, Lupin's mother is taken hostage - her freedom is damaged and that's bad; in the second case, she's not willing to pay enough for the service, ie she's choosing to walk, ie exercising her liberty, and all is well.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 11:47:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We need to turn around that logic :

Price Hike is Taking Consumer Hostages !

Price Discrimination is Privilege Enforcment!

probably truer, too.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 12:19:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Worse than that.

Price hikes cause Inflation! ;-)

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 20th, 2007 at 08:20:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the one: the real "problem" with strong public service unions is that they get in the way of privatisation and reduction or destruction of public services.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 03:03:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because of the strikes, my 75-year-old Mom has to walk three hours a day to run her business, and I have a friend who normally commutes from Fontainebleau to the 10ème arrondissement, who can't go to work at all.
Why must your 75-year-old Mom walk three hours to run her business? At 75? She is old enough to retire, no? There must be some kind of protection for her livelihood should she have a spat of illness? The kind of arrangements that would allow the elderly to participate in the economy, as their age might leave them more vulnerable temporary disruptions in the functioning of society? No? Life is hard and she does not have the sort of 'privilege' that spoilt train drivers do? (I am putting a lot of narrative to your few words here. Please forgive me if they are not inline with how you view the situation.)

I think you are attacking the wrong enemy here! If your mother and your friend are at risk of financial obliteration due to such disruptions of the normal flow of things, the problem is an improperly working welfare state, not excessive benefits for train drivers. If the the threat of economic disruption is more of an inconvenience than a threat against financial security, then the two cases you cite merit little sympathy.

Don't be hoodwinked into believing that Sarko the great is mounting a courageous assault on spoilt public workers, to the benefit of 'honest working persons', or 'struggling small businesses'. The assault can be expected to be to the benefit of large corporations that are in the favour with the big guy. A great train of glory for the financial industries, perhaps. They usually drool over any hint at 'liberalising reform'. But hey, let's put out a nice distraction to direct the attention of the masses towards excessive 'privileges' of some category of their fellow working man. That's the way it usually works with the right and their attack on worker 'privileges'.

I'm not in favor of public strikes and I supported Reagan when he fired the air controllers, though the way he went about it, especially afterwards, was unnecessarily harsh.

Well, these workers are public workers! Their conflict involves the government, which in a democracy, like it or not, we typically see as deriving its power from the people. As their 'employers', however indirectly, we, the public, deserve to feel their discontent. In your post you argue like quite the anti-union boss man. "Get my workers back to work! What are the sniveling about now? Don't they see I have profit to make!"

If we wish to discuss compensation schemes and working times anywhere in our society, I think it is only fair that the option to support lower activity and smaller contributions, in effect choosing less toys and more time, should also be considered. This is however never on the table. The push is always towards both higher productivity, and longer working time. The need, absolute need, of 40h work weeks (gaahh, how dare they try 35 if France!), the need to extend activity into old age due to a longer living population, the need to produce and circulate widgets ever more quickly. The need to 'liberalise' and 'reform' to satisfy the need of greater profits. In a political climate such as this, any loss anywhere by anyone on the labour side must be resisted. And the willingness of people who are in fact not among the privileged who will massively benefit from the 'reformin' to hop along with the idea of 'privileged', 'spoilt' public/civil servants is rather distressing. I guess thet's what happens when solidarity goes out of vogue.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 11:04:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I must say I am particularly amused by the spaghetti-Western imagery.

Particularly as the most famous spaghetti Western of all times was entitled "a Fist Full of Dollars".

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 05:54:26 AM EST
I love the France Info (continuous FM news) journalist who is able to utter such an absurdity without wincing :

"The numbers of people on strike keep going down. The trains scheduled today by SNCF and RATP are the same as yesterday". (Nota : the numbers of people on strike are reported by SNCF and RATP themselves, and they have reasons to claim it keeps diminishing. Not being able to increase the numbers meanwhile shows the absurdity of the claim...)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 09:54:42 AM EST
(knock, Knock).
"Is this thing workin'?"
When I post, the server coughs- the little hourglass just goes on forever--so here it is again-

The difference is real, and huge.

In stormy weather, on an instrument approach to De Gaulle in a vehicle operating independently of any track in three dimensional space- a vehicle with a speed in the transition zone well beyond the top end for the fastest TGV--
In the world's most heavily populated air traffic environment, the pilot will fly a complex approach involving, often, dozens of changes of heading and altitude, changes of speed, of aircraft configuration, all the while communicating with and responding to typically four different radio control facilities,
En route
Approach
Tower
Ground
--- while at the same time executing multiple check lists and maintaining a mental picture of the field, the terrain, the aircraft angle of attack vs. speed equation (a life-or-death matter), our chauffer will feel his way to the runway end and "grease it on", if he is really good (and lucky)- while creating in his head a mental map of the field's complex taxiways so he or she doesn't turn off at the wrong goddamn runway exit. I speak from experience there.
After a night approach in gusty, icy weather, every approach is a clean-shirt deal- to hide the sweat stains. Never, never to be admitted to others, of course.  

I suggest that the heavy-qualified airplane driver is performing an act of real-time skill and judgment that approaches the absolute limits of what humans can do.

Also, Every Cat III approach (could be fully automatic) is monitored and in reality hand flown- hands on or near the controls, even when the autopilot is on---and the Autopilot don't do none of that other shit either.

I have the greatest respect for the TGV driver- or the driver of the local freight. I've shared at least a bit of his or her world, I think.
Pay the hell out of them, and don't bitch.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Nov 25th, 2007 at 09:13:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of airline pilots, the pay gap is wide all right, but maybe not as wide as it used to be.

Sure pilots flying long haul routes at first tier airlines (still?) have very good compensation packages; however, on smaller commuter airlines and other low-cost, the pay is not as rosy.

Michael Moore mentioned in one of his books, discussing with a pilot on one of these "puddle hopper" airlines, whose pay was so low he was actually eligible for food stamps.

Moore concluded: Be nice to people on food stamps; they may be flying you to Buffalo...

by Bernard on Sun Nov 25th, 2007 at 11:58:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I might have overstated my case in claiming train drivers had a job as difficult as plane pilots, but the fact that there are pilots on food stamps underlines my real point : the reason for the pay gap isn't that piloting planes is harder, but that it carries prestige, and that they had strong unions. The free market has killed some of that prestige, and is working on the unions bit.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Nov 25th, 2007 at 12:10:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was about to point that out, but the thread got tangled into a qualification vs benefits argument.

I thought the original debate was more about hardship vs benefits when comparing train, buses and airplane drivers.

And yes, there are people who make more money with better working conditions, without being necessary more qualified or even smarter (paging real estate agents?).
Life is not fair; what a shocker...

by Bernard on Sun Nov 25th, 2007 at 12:34:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Instead: Shoot the FT!

I heard there was quite a nice atmosphere in Paris during the strike, contrary to the moaning and groaning of a bunch of self-absorbed British bigwigs preaching in newspapers. Why do the British have such disdain, contempt, for the EU and especially France? Such crap. Say it. A lack of respect can only be returned with an even bigger lack of respect. In fact, the British are afraid they might be losing the game. Stress and anxiety. Britain has benefited enormously from the EU and refuses to admit its dependency. You see, if the EU kicked Britain out, it would sink like a....(any suggestions?).

by Quentin on Sun Nov 25th, 2007 at 02:44:45 PM EST


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