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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 with the authorities to remain open on Sundays during the World Cup.

Some stores intend to be open on all Sundays and others only on a few Sundays. This is a timid initiative compared to the Virgin Megastore on the Champs-Elysées, which is proposing to stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fnac in the next block will have to consider their neighbor's plan as well.

On the hotel front, the estimated 250,000 foreigners and 350,000 residents of France expected to be staying in Paris, have not filled up all the hotel rooms. People in the business even think clientele will drop 10 to 15 percent off normal for the time of year. Many of the French stay with friends and relatives, and foreign non- SportsFans have planned their visits for some other time period.

Bernard Tapie Gets Suspended Sentence

Mr. Tapie has been living a quiet life, with only occasional court visits. On Thursday, an appeals court at Aix-en-Provence reduced a sentence of three years, with 18 months suspended, to three years suspended and a fine of 200,000 francs. Mr. Tapie, an ex-government minister, was also stripped of his civic right to vote or run for office for five years.

This was the 'OM Accounts' case, which involved the Olympic Marseille football club and its books. The court decided, in effect, that Tapie hadn't personally 'enriched' himself as a result of fiddling the club's accounts, and was merely somewhat responsible for the irregularities.

Mr. Tapie served nearly six months in prison after being convicted of being involved with fixing the outcome of a football match between Olympic Marseille and Valenciennes - in Marseille's favor.

He faces another appeals court on 24. June when his 18-month conviction for fraud in the yacht case - the 'Phocéa Dossier' - comes up for a decision. Even if he can get this one reduced to a suspendedphoto: cafes rue cloche perce sentence, high-powered Paris anti-corruption judge Eva Joly has begun another investigation into the former wheeler-dealer businessman's affairs.

Three restaurants edge to edge in the rue Cloche-Perce make table-hopping easy.

Bernard Tapie used to specialize in picking up run-down companies for little and setting them back on their feet. He did this with 'Wonder' batteries and when Addidas got in trouble, he pumped new life into it - until Crédit Lyonnais pulled their loan out from under him, which contributed to his downhill slide.

Besides businesses, he ran the Olympic Marseille team up to the top of the French league, was a government minister, occasional movie star and frequent TV personality; and generally had a high profile life style, while maintaining a discreet private life.

Saving companies, having winning football teams, being a Mr. Dynamic and appearing as a TV personality are not thought to be 'French' traits in certain circles. When Tapie went down the word 'schadenfreude' gained new depths - except with his friends and Olympic Marseille supporters.

If Mr. Jospin is really interested in making something out of Air France, he might be able to persuade Mr. Tapie to take on the job of fixing it up - so long as he pays him a symbolic franc to do it.

Big Weekend Events I Missed:

La Grand Fête National de la Pêche. Mom's Day; again! The 24 Hours of Le Mans Marathon High-Speed Rain Race. Europe's Bike Day. The End of Roland Garros for This Year. Le Parisien Discovers Today the Two-Week 'Euro'-coin Day Ends in Marly Next Weekend. The Prix de Diane Hermès à Chantilly.

Not a weekend event, but I missed it until now: it looks like the Ville de Paris has sold the entire area of the fountains at Trocadéro to Addidas for a 'football park.'

The 'NikePark' at La Défense has been bugging me because I have to walk a long way around it every time I'm there; but at least it is built in the concrete desert that passes for cozy out at Paris' low-grade 'Manhattan' copy.

But Addidas taking all of Trocadéro! I don't think even Tapie could have pulled this one off. Suppose it gets hot? Those are public fountains underneath and although you are not supposed to cool off in them, a lot of people do. Enough anyway, to have established a 'right-of-way,' I should think.

SportsNews - Anyone for the Complete TV Program?

Since I can find no spectacular news of any stupendous sporting exploits by residents of France other than horses, how about the WC'98 TV program?

Le Parisien has the program divided into 'Absolutely Must Watch,' 'Watch If Possible' and 'If You Don't Have Anything Else To Do.'

Scotland against Norway on 16. June doesn't sound boring. Neither does Chile against Austria on 17. June. But I think I'll mark my calendar so as not to miss the match between Japan andphoto: skateboarder Jamaica on Friday, 26. June. Oh, darn! The small print says it will only be video clips from the game.

A sidebar to the feature says there are no more TVs with liquid-crystal displays left in France as they have been snapped up for use in offices, in buses, in the métro and by street sweepers.

Metropole's fast-action live and exclusive sports photo of the week.

All that are left are old-fashioned black and white tube models. They run on current or batteries and apparently their only drawback, besides lack of color, is that you have to change the channels by hand. 'Like a radio,' Le Parisien explains.

I keep feeling that Le Parisien will escape the '50's at any moment, but on other days I'm not sure. Next week, I'll tell you about the re-vamped 'France-Soir,' which will downsize to tabloid format on Monday - and cost a franc less than Le Parisien. Is it a morning paper, I wonder?

The SportsBar Has Moved to the Fútbol Page for the duration. Bon chance!
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