Paris, France — Many workers in the French public sector went on strike today to protect what President Sarkozy calls their “special regime”. Sarkozy has managed to convince a majority of the French public that these workers are privileged.
France 24, the French international TV broadcaster, is now worth 24 million euros. The TV is 100% financed by the French government, that is the tax-payer, to the tune of 70 to 80 million euros a year. Yet, it is half owned by the private TV channel TF1 and the other half is owned by French public TV. TF1 in turn is owned by President Sarkozy’s good friend, Martin Bouygues. He has not paid a penny into France 24 but stands a good chance of being bought out for 12 million euros.
The idea is to regroup France’s international broadcasters (CFI, TV5, RFI, France 24) into one holding which would make it a public broadcaster. This means TF1’s 50% share would have to be bought by the French tax payer. Not a bad deal.
Jacques is a striking train driver who has worked three shifts at the national SNCF train company for 30 years. He says when he retires “I will get a retirement of 1200 euros, which is 700 less than now: will someone explain to me in what way I am privileged?”
In theory, train drivers have to pay into the pension fund thirty-seven-and-a-half years and the government wants to raise it to forty. The same goes for other transport workers, Electricity EDF and Gas GDF company workers and other public sector employees. Sarkozy has convinced a majority, (55%) of the French that these people are privileged. With this public opinion he has decided to declare war on the “privileged”.
Alex Chaigneau is a 32 year-old “privileged” worker at the EDF and says it is tough work because “at night, in the rain, in the snow, in all weather” they go up the poles. He says “my 50 year-old colleagues climbing the pylons with me are broken.”
Anissa Ali-Abdallah says she accepted to work early and late hours because “the other side of the deal was the retirement.” Others say they accepted lower pay because of the retirement deal.
Because there is no pay compensation involved with the change in the retirement schemes, EDF and GDF will increase their earnings by 250 million euros according to calculations by French unions.
One of the first things Sarkozy did after taking office was give the extremely wealthy tax breaks which work out to 18 billion euros a year. Yet, he says there is no money to pay the pensions or cover the 12 billion euro deficit in Health Care.
True Bouygues’ France 24 pay off is just pocket money for the man who owns one of the biggest construction companies in the world. And of course the Best Man at Sarkozy’s second wedding and the God-Father of Sarkozy’s son is not privileged.