Thursday, December 06, 2007

striking season

It has been an interesting past three weeks here in Nantes. It is striking season. Disgruntled students and workers are reacting to reforms made by the sarkozy government in the most traditional means possible: strike. Living in Nantes I was hardly touched by the transportation strikes. I don't have a large need to move about, so i didn't need to take the SNCF and the local tram system is run by the city. I can't imagine living through these same strikes in paris when there was no metro system working. SNCF Worker were on strike because their current retirement benefits were under attack. Some of the reforms were rather sound as there are some rather aggregious benefits. SNCF employees were, for example, able to retire at the age of 50. That strike ended just as gabe arrived for thanksgiving.
For the past four weeks, however, University students have been on strike. This strike is concerning a law passed last summer regarding university autonomy and opportunities to invite private entities to contribute to the cost of education. Cynical (rightfully so?) students think this will lead to a situation in which the letters will have no support and prices will raise enormously. Current education costs float around E300 a semester. The strike would have seemed to have ended this week as students voted to end the "bloqus" after a promise was given by the minister of education to increase support for universities by 5 million euros, but disgruntled students have continued to take all the chairs from classrooms. The law was passed as an effort to improve the quality of french higher education through an improvement of facilities and an increase in the pay of professors.

Last week my highschool students also went on strike. Concerned about the potential increase in school fees, they have also taken to the streets. The high school "bloqus" can probably attribute its success to a typical highschool student's desire to be on perpetual vacation. There is a silent few, however, who, having already lost all confidence in a democratic governement where elected represetnivies listen to the voices of the people, pushed for a student strike. Ahhh strikes. I have constantly joked with my french colleuges that you really know you are in france if their is a strike going on. I find the notion of skipping class to push for a better education to be rather interesting. This would seem like an unfair characterization of the highschool student movement, had it not been their first, and to date, only response to the law. This poorly played political monoluge expresses discontent without offering alternative options. 200 years ago the french mob cut off the kings head, today, the french student mob would seem to be cutting of their own.
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after a week and a half, the strike has ended. back to work for me