by Jerome a Paris
Thu Jul 26th, 2007 at 08:27:00 AM EST
One of the flagship laws currently pushed by Sarkozy is that to try to organize a "minimum service" during strikes in public transport, so that passengers are not unfairly penalised.
This is yet another case of using "freedom" (for workers to go to work unimpeded) to bash the (constitutionally protected) right to strike and weaken labor protections. This is especially sensitive as transport workers have become de facto "proxy strikers" for others - being protected by their status, able to give any strike an immediate and visible impact, and still largely unionised, they tend to be the most active participants in national strikes, and those that give these the most impact. So cutting their wings (by imposing, for instance, secret ballot votes on whether to strike or not, and longer prior notice) will weaken unions not just in the transport sector, but throughout the economy.
And as further proof that the goal is not really about passengers' freedom, Le Canard Enchainé brings up some statistics on transport this week (no link, it's p.3 of this week's edition, under the title "La bataille duraille du service minimum"). The most significant one is that out of 6,043 delays that took place in 2006 on French railways, 140 only were caused by strikes. 4,180 were caused by incidents (suicides, malicious alarm signals, overcrowded platforms, etc...) and 1,728 by technical problems. Many of these are caused by the reduction in the number of rail workers (in particular those present in stations that can help with disturbances and incivilities) and cost cutting on maintenance. Le Canard gives the example of spare parts, which used to be run on a local basis, but are now centralised and transported (by truck) by private companies that are apparently not completely efficient.
There was a recent discussion in a thread about the privatisation of the German railways, and the already ongoing cost-cutting.
But it's just so much easier to blame striking unions for problems, right?
And Sarkozy can look "tough" and like he's keeping his promises when he is just being his usual populist and vindictive self.