The President Is Not On Strike

photo: drugstore champs elysees
To you the Drugstore may not be a 'bistro,' but
to many Parisians it is.

Cold Weather Report II

Paris:- Sunday, 6. December 1998:- In Paris, cold weather is an off-and-on thing. Friday was gloomy and grey, followed by an incredibly bright Saturday. Temperatures are above freezing but not by much. I guess it is 'December' weather, and as the TV-weather lady would say, it is about 'normal' for the time of year.

The headline above, 'The President Is Not On Strike' is not about anything in particular. Jacques Chirac seems to have come out of a sort of hibernation and is twirling about in Paris, the provinces and foreign countries; and looking very relaxed while shaking a lot of hands of big and little dignitaries.

This has nothing to do with the headline either - but - while the President seems to have hit his groove, his political party and its allies seem to be compounding the confusion they've been in for some time now, and are staggering on from one disaster to another.

Maybe the President has decided to stop worrying about this and patiently wait until a new generation comes along, and meanwhile let his opposite-party Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, take the heat for the tricky day to day routine details of keeping France ticking over.

Journalist's Pocketbooks Will Miss Perks

Last Tuesday, instead of waking up to the machine-gun patter of horror, mayhem and plain bad news pumped out at high-volume and non-stop by radio France-Info, I woke up to another one of John Lennon's posthumous tracks. It was kinda okay.

Although the sound was old, the lyrics were fresh. The sound of 'no news' could only signify that journalists were on strike. Eventually, the radio said this. Fine with me; a day off from the news.

The reason for the strike: journalists are about to lose their little fiscal perk, of being allowed to deduct a flat, no-questions-asked, 30 percent from their declared income.

Eh, wot? you say. Journalists - and about 80 other 'professions' - get these supplementary revenue deductions. Why this should be so, is lost in the mists of time. For journalists, goes back about 50 years I think.

It was once an indirect government subsidy for newspaper publishers - which allowed them to pay journalists less. Publishers also get - or got - a newsprint subsidy too; all in the nation's interest in having a strong and 'free' press.

This perk was a boon to freelancers - 'pigistes' - becausephoto: pilon viandes the 30 percent was originally said to cover a working journalist's out-of-pocket expenses. Getting this 30 percent off declared income, saved a 'pigiste' from collecting receipts for métro tickets and payphone calls all year long.

An attractive-looking shop with attractive-looking food, stops a window-shopper.

With the suppression of the 30-percent-perk, this is exactly what freelance journalists will have to do in the future. Collect the receipts. I have three years' worth of this paper saved up against the day I actually have some revenues to declare.

But, this 30-percent reduction is also accorded to all staff journalists too. These ones, sitting in their employer's heated offices, getting 'ticket-restaurants' or eating in company canteens, getting a cut-rate monthly transit tickets; all these 'extra' perks - on top of these ones, they lose this 30 percent deduction too, which amounts to a fair cut in pay.

Quel horreur! The poor sods, getting monthly salaries; will have to get raises or lose out. The 30 to 40 percent of freelancers in the profession, will get to fight with their tax assessors to get their own out-of-pocket cash back - these sad sacks who get no salaries, but are paid by the piece; by the word, by the published photo or cartoon.

These ones not paid by the hour for research, time spent running after stories, the cost of telephone calls, parking tickets or sandwiches caught on the fly in a bistro.

I have never heard of a freelancers' strike. This was never discussed at union meetings I went to. We talked about work ordered and not paid for. We talked about social security deductions made but not matched by employers. We talked about being lonely. We should of had more than one union meeting a year. But no, on journalists' strike days, we work.

The day's strike cut the radio news immediately, and the evening's TV-news was without much new film. The following day, papers appeared, but mostly with fewer pages.

Libération's publisher, Serge July, reminded readers that the other half of the 'deal' was to be a cut in taxes; a deal worked out with Prime Minister Juppé back in 1997.

he Senat meanwhile, has proposed putting off the suppression of the tax deduction for a year. Nobody is talking about the general tax reduction anymore.

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