Another Revolution?

More strikes, more demonstrations – this is France, but, it will all be over by Christmas.

On Thursday 5th of December French workers went on the first of a long series of strikes,   the country ground to a halt and over a million people took to the streets in massive demonstrations to vent their frustration and protest about forthcoming government pension reform.

It’s simple, we all want to retire at a decent age on a decent pension so we can enjoy  the few years of life that are left to us before we all shuffle off this mortal coil.

One small snag, there are now too many oldies coming up for retirement and there are not enough youngsters in work to support the massive burden of pensions for hale and hearty babyboomers. And there is the other problem, we are all living too long. After years of public health programs we have all stopped smoking and boozing and we are eating healthy foods and going to the gym and … we are living too long.

So the solutions are

We can all retire at the current retirement age of 62 and we will get the pensions we get.

We can all retire much later at 65 (or 67 in some cases) and get the pensions we were promised in the first place

The government can untax sugary foods, fatty foods, booze and cigarettes, it can tax gym membership and we can all start living unhealthy lives again and die far earlier and that way there will be far fewer oldies around

We can abolish a statutory retirement age and just let everyone carry on working

Too many oldies, too many few youngsters and no cash to pay pensions – such is the problem.

Currently all workers get a state pension after 40 years of contributions (it used to be 37). The pension is roughly 75% of their final salaries.

The government want to change this. Younsgters coming on the job market now will work 42 years and their pension will not be based on a final salary scheme, but the entirity of their salaries across their working life.

And this is why everyone is on strike because a lifetime earnings scheme will leave many workers worse off and the 42 year plan will mean that everyone retires at 64.

As with all French strikes, this is not about winning new rights for workers, but safeguarding existing rights. We don’t want to see any restrictions to our Gallic comfort zone.

Are we right or wrong?

Back in the UK (long time ago) women retired at 60 and men at 65 – this was back in the old smoky, boozy, greasy days before anyone had ever heard of public health. So, salary differentials meant men got more pay than women, but with a bit of luck, most men would drop dead well before their 70th birthday, and even if women lived longer, they always earned peanuts, so their pension bill was sustainable.

I can imagine our dear President praying for a return to the good old days.

Anyway, if you are coming to France before Christmas, check on your travel plans, because the strike is rock solid for the moment – no trains on national lines and hardly any  buses or metros in Paris.

Of course this is also the strike season in France. Christmas is two weeks away, the weather is awful, everyone is tired and a strike day makes a nice rest. Note that we strike on Thursdays and Tuesdays. Strike on a Thursday, take the day off on Friday, you have a long weekend, and take the day off on Monday with the strike on Tuesday. You’ve worked it out. Besides if any group of workers wants to hold the country to ransom, this is the best time to do it.

I’m not anti strike, I’m not cynical – as a teacher, I stand to lose out on the new pension reform, besides, to have my full quota of years, I’ll be rolling on until I’m 65 anyway.

I think it’s time for a large glass of wine and a cigarette.