Cheered in Mali, Hollande still losing the war at home
[FRANCE24] President François Hollande faced on Thursday the first nationwide strike by French civil servants since he took office last May. Hollande, a Socialist, has been hailed at home and abroad for routing Mali-based Islamists with a lightening military intervention, but he is quickly falling out of favour among his key voting constituencies.
Thousands of civil servants, including hospital personnel and teachers, took to the streets in Paris and across the country to demand better pay and more jobs. Unions organising around 120 marches throughout France said they would rally around 100,000 people.
Victor Alavar, a 48-year-old nurse on strike, said patients were suffering because of the "chronic" deficit of hospital staff. "Sometimes [patients] have to wait three to six months for certain surgeries, and there are more and more accidents," he said.
Alavar, who works at a major hospital in the southwest city of Toulouse, said the government was closing smaller rural hospitals and certain specialised care units, putting growing pressure on the already limited staff at large hospitals like his.
| And now they'll wait another day for surgery because you decided not to go to work...|
"Little by little workers are being pushed to their limits, and some of them break. I have colleagues who go on sick leave with depression; one female nurse recently had a heart attack. It's getting worse," he lamented.
| Same things have happened in the U.S. Chicago has closed a number of hospitals these last two decades. But we don't go out on strike over it...|
Thursday's collective groan against France's Socialist-led government may the first mass strike since the left took power last year, but it is also likely the first of many. France counts 5.2 million state civil servants.
Paris primary school teachers closed almost all schools in the French capital on January 23 to protest Hollande's first major education reform, and have promised to do so again on February 5. Some unions representing civil servants are threatening to go on strike again on February 12.
Teachers in particular, but state employees in general, voted in mass for Hollande last May. Many among them now say they are disappointed over what Hollande has done, or failed to do, so far.
"This government promised change, but has continued the same policies of the previous one," Alavar said. "Today's strike is just the beginning stage."
Posted by: Fred 2013-02-01