Winter of Discontent
Here are a few strike photos culled from Le Figaro. There were large demonstrations throughout France, but little in the way of actual choking of the various systems of ground transport (air transport was more seriously affected). Not surprisingly, schools had low attendance of teachers and the personnel assigned to elementary schools had their hands full, but this was easily predicted. Although this was primarily a Socialist shindig, an unusually large number of the demonstrators were salaried workers from the private sector.
All in all between 1 and 2.5 million people demonstrated on Thursday. Taking just the public sector employees, 25% of functionaries, 33% of teachers, 25% of postal and telephone company employees, and 33% of public utility employees did not go to work.
The main target of the strikers was Nicolas Sarkozy, accused of helping bankers and ignoring workers. "Sarko, Sarko, what a Pinocchio!" shouted angry demonstrators. Others insisted that greater "purchasing power" is the only economic solution.
Among those from the private sector who marched were salaried employees of Crédit Lyonnais, Renault, Michelin, Volvic, FNAC, Galeries Lafayette, Peugeot Citroën, and even notary clerks.
According to Eric de La Chesnais, who blogs at Le Figaro on behalf of agricultural workers, even farmers made the trip to Paris to demonstrate side by side with functionaries. Rural inhabitants of France are concerned over the loss of farms (15,000 disappear each year), and the low standard of living among farmers whose revenue is less than the minimum wage.
Union leaders all said these were the largest demonstrations they had seen in a long time.
A scene in Grenoble:
This is Nice where, according to police, it was the largest demonstration since the anti-Le Pen rallies in 2002:
Three beaming Socialists: Martine Aubry, chairman of the French Socialist Party; Pierre Delanoë, mayor of Paris (right); Jean-Paul Huchon, president of the region of Ile-de-France.
Confrontations broke out a little before 7:00 p.m. at the Place de l'Opera in Paris. The demonstrators were heading for Elysée, faces masked. They harrassed the police and threw projectiles. One overturned car was burned. At least 12 persons were arrested:
You can view a slide show here.
According to Le Figaro a law passed in 2007 allows the SNCF (National Railways) to operate a certain number of commuter trains, subways and buses, thus reducing the chances for a total stoppage of transportation. "Black Thursday" (the feared shutdown of the country) therefore did not happen and the guaranteed minimal service functioned well. The law requires that strikers make themselves known, individually, 48 hours before the strike.