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French strike: 'It's called taking the public hostage'

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French strike: 'It's called taking the public hostage'
Photo: AFP
10:52 CEST+02:00
The French have taken to social media to voice their thoughts on the latest strikes affecting thousands of commuters in Paris and around the country, with reactions ranging from frustration and bewilderment to solidarity.

A rainy Thursday saw Paris and the rest of France hit by yet more transport workers' strikes by Paris Metro and train workers, air traffic controllers and staff from rail operator SNCF. 

The strikes coincided with a day of protests against planned labour reforms that saw students, school pupils and workers take to the streets. The reforms are aimed at reducing unemployment by making it easier for bosses to hire and fire workers, but threaten the job security that is cherished in France.

The hashtag #greve31mars started trending on Twitter on Thursday morning, proving that the French have a lot to say about the strikes and demos.

But while striking is deeply ingrained in French culture and often largely accepted by the public, the reaction on Twitter suggested the French were far from happy on Thursday morning.

Many took to social media to voice sentiments of anger over strikes and protests they see as useless and nonsensical. 

Strong criticism of transport strikes on social media

One Frenchman expressed his frustration with the transport strikes by tweeting: “They call it a mobilization, I call it taking the public hostage.” 

Another blasted the seemingly endless strikes of the RATP, the capital's transport operator:

“Who are we? RATP. What do we want? Strike. Anything else? Strike. And if not? Strike. That's all?"

"When strikes don't serve any purpose other than pissing everyone off, we don't call that going on strike, but being a pain in the ass..."

"Too many strikes over the years have killed the essence of the right to strike. You can't complain of not being heard."

"France: the only country in the world where people go on strike when they haven't even started to work. How do you expect to move forward in this country?" said Joseph Joel Megaides on Facebook.

Backlash against protesters

In addition to the reactions to the transport strikes, there was no shortage of online criticism for the protests in the streets.

"Protesting, even if it's an undisputed right, has become a gangrene of this country." 

"Come on guys, why are you blocking the university in the name of our future? Are you idiots or what?"

"Blocking universities, high schools... A constructive way of not intellectually enriching oneself."

"It's funny, this idea of demonstrating for the survival of work conditions by preventing people from going to work!"

"Young people, instead of protesting for laws that you don't even understand, go study so that you don't have to earn the minimum wage!"

Florian Marne wrote in a Facebook post: “Imagine my confusion this morning while passing in front of the lycée Vauvenargues, coming across all these kids proudly bearing Communist flags (given out by I don't know which party) as if they were in a football stadium, not even knowing the meaning, going on 'strike' just to avoid going to class… Poor France.”

Amongst the frustration, solidarity and support

Despite the inconvenience of the transport strike, some of the French were vocal about their support, tweeting and publishing posts of support and encouragement on Facebook.

On Facebook, Chloé Alibert angrily rebuked those complaining about the strikes. "It's for your rights that people are fighting and moving. It's thanks to people like these that you have rights as a salaried worker: your pay, your 35 hours, your paid holidays, your retirement... And you dare to say that these strikers are people who don't want to work?

"When they have done that all their life and simply want to leave a better world for their children? And yes, they're not selfish people who only think of their own comfort... That would be you, the lazy non-strikers, the puppets of our society."

Many also tweeted in support of the demonstrators in the streets, including many students, who are protesting against labour reforms.

"Thanks to everyone in the streets today. I never thought I'd say this, but I'll no longer be voting for the Socialist Party."

 

"Support to those courageous people who are protesting today."

"Happy March 31st strike to all those who protesting against a law that will make life even more difficult for those people in trouble. All together."

Anglophone reaction

Anglophone expats and visitors to Paris had mixed perspectives. 

“At least in France people do something, better than back in the UK. People moan then just let the government do what they want,” wrote Marie-Louise Friedrich on Facebook.

Jan Viega said: “With things in a mess in France as it is, it makes no sense to continue this lunacy. Both sides should be able to sit down and work out the problems. These strikes only make things worse. If you inconvenience the public all the time, eventually, they will turn against the public employees who need their support more than ever. Mindless thinking going on here."

“As my 11pm train was canceled last night, I slept uncomfortably on my office sofa only to awaken for the 6am train that was also canceled. It's moments like this that I forget why I love France,” said Pamela Faye.

Lighten up

Some chose to make light of the situation, often referencing Thursday's conveniently awful weather in Paris as well as France's stereotype of constantly protesting and going on strike. 

"At each new fight or demonstration, Hollande invokes his best ally: the rain."

"It's when there are no more strikes that France will become boring. For now, everything's fine."

 

 

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