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French Current Events Posted by on Dec 3, 2019 in Politics

December isn’t typically la saison des grèves (strike season) in France, but this year the month that usually kicks off the holiday season will being with la grande grève du 5 décembre (the great strike of December 5).

What’s the problem?

In what could be the largest social movement in years, “plusieurs millions de salariés du public et du privé sont appelés à faire grève contre la réforme des retraites, …” (many millions of public and private workers are called to strike against the planned retirement reforms), as this article from the French newspaper Le Monde says. Public transport, schools, the energy sector, gas, garbage, hospitals, air travel, and even the legal system risquent d’être perturbés (may all be disrupted).

Why? Because, as this article from Les Echo says, the government of Emmanuel Macron has been trying to make progress on a campaign promise to “faire converger la quarantaine de régimes de retraite en un système universel‘ “ (align the more than 40 different systems into on ‘universal’ retirement plan) under which everyone would benefit from les mêmes droits (the same rights) regardless of who, how, and when they originally contributed to the plan.

While support for the gilets jaunes has wavered over the year and more that it has been active, and support for the government of Emmanuel Macron has had its own ups and downs, support for this current action seem unusually strong. According to a recent IFOP survey, as many as 64% of those surveyed were supportive of the planned grèves (strikes).

What’s your grandfather got to do with it?

The planned reforms, already unpopular with many working class French, were not helped by some recent news that a plan to only apply the new rules going forward may have been scrapped. Reading about it was the first time that I ever encountered the common English phrase “grandfather clause” in French (la clause du grand-père).

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


  1. Sylvia May:

    Your sign-up doesn’t describe me. I hover between what you describe as representing a government agency and having a personal interest. I don’t fit any of your educational slots. I work for a non-government agency, the Workers’ Educational Association, and on my own account, where I teach modern languages including French, so you could say non-government agency, personal and professional interest would be more accurate.

    • Tim Hildreth:

      @Sylvia May Thank you for your comments, Sylvia, and for your good works! I’ll share your comments with our team at TL HQ. Tim