Tellus

Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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The strike in France

As you may or may not know the French have been on strike for several weeks. In fact, there have been manifestations throughout France since we arrived in early September. Why are the French on strike?
The main reason for the strike, however, is that there is a bill passing through the National Assembly and the Senate to reform the age at which the French can receive retirement benefits. As it stands, the French can receive their retirement benefits at 60 years old, or after a certain number of trimesters in the work force (which ever comes first). There is a problem with the current system, however. There are 1.8 active workers to every 1 person receiving their retirement benefits—this means that the retirement system is not being adequately funded. The system for funding and receiving retirement benefits is quite complex—we just spent the past week learning about it in one of my classes.
With the reform, the French would have to be at least 62 years old to receive part of their benefits…but it is not that simple. French law mandates that the majority of the population (because there are always exceptions) work for 40.5 years. If they increase the legal age of retirement to 62, they also augment the number of years people must work. The youth of France is not pleased by the prospect of this change. Since many young people won’t start working until they are 25, after completing university. they will be obligated to work until they are closer to 67 or 69 than 62
After several days of strikes and manifestations throughout September and October, the government did not seem to respond to the concerns of the people who were striking. Therefore, the unions have organized “un grève indeterminable.” In other words they have not set a date to conclude the strike in order to capture the attention of the government.
For those of us in Angers it means:
- No garbage collection
- A severe shortage of gas (because they have blocked Marseille’s port and many of the oil refineries).
- Traffic congestions on the autoroute when the delivery trucks all drive at a snail’s pace—a form of manifesting.
- Irregular bus and train service
- Extremely long lines at the train station
- High school students blockading their schools and burning the trash lining the streets.
- Large manifestations in the center of town.
- Irregular mail service.
- Because we attend a private school, the professors are not on strike.
As of today, the garbage and gas situation have improved.

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