Wednesday, 27 October 2010

And Finally!

Les Carottes Sont Cuites
With the workers of three refineries voting to return to work, the rubbish beginning to be collected again in Marseille and most of the trains now running, the protests are showing signs of petering out. As one interviewee said charmingly yesterday morning “The carrots are cooked! We don’t want to end up burning the furniture like the English miners”! At Brive-la-Gaillarde, however, just to the north of us in the Corrèze they blockaded the petrol depot in the morning but the blockade was lifted in the afternoon. This morning due to continuing strikes in the ports of Marseille and Le Havre there is no crude oil reaching the refineries, so although they are back at work no refined products can be produced.
Commentators on France Inter yesterday morning were saying that the government might have won the battle but they have lost the fight for public opinion. Next time they should hire Alistair Campbell!
Legal or Legitimate
Yesterday evening on a phone-in programme they had received emails from a large number of correspondents who were trying to reconcile the fact that the Deputies and Senators had voted through a law by a legal and democratic process, but it was being challenged by what they considered to be legitimate protests. The politicians were of course quite clear about it. The right considered that the industrial action and street protests were not legitimate and the left thought that they were. Perhaps the public are finally beginning to realize that you can’t govern a country by mob rule.
Reform Union Finances
If Nicholas Sarkozy really wants a fight, however, he could always take on the unions like Maggie did. In France it would be easy to attack their weak point which is funding, since union membership is only 8% of the workforce on average. I propose that:-

• Businesses should have to submit to a vote of their shareholders any proposal to make payments to Unions. Payments made without this approval should carry the threat of a prison term for the directors involved.
• Unions should be forbidden to receive any money in cash even from their members.
• The government and local authorities should progressively withdraw all funding of Union activities over a period of four years.
• To soften the impact on public opinion, and to give the government something to sell to the public, the government should allow individuals to deduct subscriptions for union membership from their income for tax purposes. You could even run a campaign to the effect that everybody should join a union. Since on previous experience it would be ineffective, it would make no difference.

If I am right the unions would see a catastrophic reduction in their income and capabilities because nobody would think that it was necessary to join and support the unions. After all they have never had to in the past.
I am sure that it would quickly become very obvious that some form of responsible representation in the workplace is necessary but the temporary chaos could be used to pass more laws making individuals responsible for costs if they blockaded somewhere that they did not work for.
Manifestos! What are they?
Well that’s my pro-union proposals for the special case of France. Of course no politician would put it in their manifesto before the 2012 election, but that doesn’t matter here because they never write any manifestos! They might have to say what they really want to do and be expected to deliver on their policy proposals!


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