More Than You Wanted To Know About:

photo: cafe de jarette
It's not a really nice day, but Parisians sit outside anyway.

How France Gets Ready for the World Cup

Paris:- Saturday, 6. June 1998:- For some unexplained reason, all of the talks held between the management of Air France and the representatives of the pilot's unions, start around 18:00 in the afternoon, and on Friday and this morning they wrapped up about 06:30.

Since there can't be much managing to do with no flights in the air and there is obviously less for the pilots to do; I want to know what they all do during the day.

During the day passengers are finding some other way of getting where they want to go. Or they are not going anywhere. This seems to be where the talks are headed.

The Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, appearing somewhat exasperated, said on TV-news that regardless of everything, Air France would fly football players around the country to their various matches, no matter what.

Ordinary paying passengers obviously have no priority and besides, the Prime Minister said, they can take the train.

This gave the SNCF's ticket controllers the bright idea of going on strike too, with the result that many regional services fell into disarray with regional trains unable to operate without the ticket punchers. At first this was for 24 hours, then it lengthened into 48 and may have gone on. Now Monday is supposed to be the back-to-work day.

Since Air France's flights were cut to a maximum of 25 percent of normal, baggage handlers at Paris' airports decided to take some time off too with a strike of their own.

Other members of flight crews and ground staff are watching the situation carefully. So far they have remained faithfully on the job; but they are understandably worried that if the pilots cave in, they will be facing salary cuts too.

The centre-right lunatic fringe is telling everybody who will listen that France's 'prestige' is on the line, and we are all supposed to be personally embarrassed by the spectacle the highly-paid pilots are causing; right now, while the world's eyes are focused on France.

These are, of course, the very same people who did not privatize Air France when they had the chance - and this is what the whole issue is about.

On the eve of 'open competition' between airlines in Europe, Air France still belongs to the state. By swallowing its internal competitor, Air Inter, and playing with the economies of scale and maintaining high ticket prices, Air France has actually managed to make a profit of a half-billionphoto: paris info kiosk francs in the last year. It was the first profit in a long long time, but hey, taxpayers picked up the tab for the loses anyhow.

This is one of Paris' cute little Info Kiosks, in front of the Hôtel de Ville.

For some reason the management thinks it needs to 'save' another half-billion francs by cutting salaries, starting with the pilots. Although the pilots have - I think - eight unions, they seem to stand as one, and the spokesman for the biggest union, Christian Paris, is on TV a lot and he sounds like a reasonable guy - for somebody who sits around in fruitless meetings all night long.

For a while, Air France management was using their director of personnel to front their PR offensive, but he seems to have been retired; or is plain too tired to do it with the same aplomb as Mr. Paris.

One of the management's ideas to soften the pay cut was to give the pilots shares in Air France. This is like paying with monopoly money because Air France technically has no shares, and really has no shares that are quoted on any stock exchange.

The pilots, in return, appear to want some representation on Air France's Board of Directors; somewhat like some union reps in Germany. The pilots fly around a lot and they talk to the pilotsgraphic: paris ete 98 guide of other, private, airlines - some of which have had their hard times too; so it is possible that the pilots are a little closer to reality than the management.

This is one of the free guides available at an Info Kiosk.

The pilots didn't wait until the eve of the World Cup in France to pull this stunt. This showdown was put on the calendar a year ago, and both sides knew it.

Basically I think the management went to the wrong management schools and the pilots have coolly called their bluff. Ordinary people don't care a hoot if Air France flies or not; ordinary people can't afford the fares.

The Prime Minister got it right when he said we could go to the matches by train. What he didn't say was that he wishes he was negotiating with Richard Branson to take over Air France; possibly for one symbolic franc.

So far the loss of revenue is estimated by Air France management at a billion francs. This is twice as much as they were hoping to save in a year, after the pay cuts.

Striking pilots meanwhile have proposed to fly SportFans, if they have World Cup match tickets, to their destinations - without pay.

Thursday - Another Action Day

In case you want to be hardheaded, the cops were on strike - or merely doing street demos - last week too. I think everybody who has any sort of beef, is trying to get in a token strike before the work-year officially ends on Tuesday, 30. June.

In fact, Thursday was sort of a mini-general demo day as gas and electricity workers, hospital staff, and even some unemployed joined the marches. In all, there were six distinct groups traipsing around the city.

The Big Oops Department

For several weeks now I've been forgetting to mention that a lot of the larger stores have arranged permission wih the authorities to remain open on Sundays during the World Cup.

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