Liberté, Égalité, Ass-Kickeré, Sarkozy

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

sarkozy.jpg

Buttoned blazer with jeans and a white oxford?  Man, this guy wants a GQ cover baaaad. 

It’s looking like the test of wills over in France is winding down, and the unions blinked first.  Nicolas Sarkozy was elected with a mandate to modernize the country’s pension system, which was proving to be a burden on national efforts to improve competitiveness and more effectively allocate funds in the globalized economy.  At the cost of his previously robust approval ratings, the French president had his Reagan moment and stared down the transportation union over the course of a 9-day strike that brought France’s vital rail system to all but a standstill, drawing the ire of a French public that supported his reform agenda in principle but hated being stuck in traffic in reality.  Sarkozy will face more strikes, from students, civil servants, and other sectors of the economy, but he has clearly scored an important initial victory.  The strikes that will come will likely not engender a lot of international goodwill for the labor side of the picket line – after all, who wants to support a bunch of fishermen who set fire to a boat in their clamor for oil subsidies? 

These are not the management vs. labor fights for a better wage and humane treatment that have shaped the narrative of unions in America.  These are, instead, reasonable and necessary initiatives on the part of Sarkozy’s government to get public sector workers off the public teat.  The French citizenry, which has low levels of private sector union participation, has expressed their displeasure with the public sector strikers as they have grumbled their way through long waits and crowded train platforms.  “I work in the private sector here in France, and do not actually benefit from all the wonderful perks that come with a public sector job – 35-hour working weeks, five weeks’ paid vacation, early retirement,” Kim Marohn told the BBC news website.  With sentiments like that taking hold as people realize the government just can’t realistically afford to pay workers full retirement benefits as young as 50, it would appear that for public-sector workers grown fat and happy off the taxes from their private sector amis, Hell just came to Frogtown.

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