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.

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

Jean-Marie Le Pen Risks Homeslessness

The wife of the leader of the extreme-right political party the Front National has lost a court battle which may put her and her husband out on the street.

Before their marriage, Madame Le Pen sold a substantial house in Reuil-Malmaison in 1987, but neglected to move out of it. It's rentphoto: roast chicken has been estimated by an expert to be worth 26,000 francs a month, but the Le Pens have never paid a centime in rent to the owners.

If you haven't time to window-shop, the food's in the street too.

The owners have gotten court orders - on 8. February 1995 - to evict the occupants, but they have stayed on. This order was confirmed by the appeals court in February of this year. In August, the Le Pens ignored a court officer's expulsion order. Now it is winter, and the illegal occupants cannot be shifted.

The Le Pens have counter-attacked, by claiming in court the right to lease the house for 12,000 francs a month; which is less than half its rental value.

The house's owners think this is a stalling manoeuvre. Meanwhile they'd like to see more than three million francs in back rent. The Paris court will decide about the 'right to lease' in January.

The Transport Strike(s)

Outside of Paris and a corridor running up to Belgium and the Calais area, SNCF train operations are still being upset by striking ticket controllers throughout France. Apparently all lines have trains running, but at the rate of one in four or one in three of their regular schedules.

Since this action is not affecting the Paris area, stories about it are not on front pages here. Inside the papers there are reports about the growing annoyance of train users. Out in the country, unlike Paris, when trains do not run there is often no alternate method for getting from 'A' to 'B.'

The Unemployed Are On Strike Too

After some weeks of minor demonstrations, associations of the unemployed have called for an all-out national strike on Thursday, 10. December.

In scattered areas, the unemployed have been occupying unemployment offices, and more of these actions have been announced for Monday. Apparently, the directors of some of the branches close them to avoid occupation, and about a third of them are now closed in Paris - one way or the other.

The unemployed in Marseille have been particularly insistent in their demands for a 3,000-franc Christmas 'bonus.' This 'bonus' was called for in past years, and in some cases was granted.

Good News For Veggie Lovers

As you probably already know, the French are fond of food. What the French particularly like is fresh food, and what they like even better is fresh food made by and handled by real people. (You can read about this in this issue, in the story about the out-door marchés).

With this mania for freshness, it should come as nophoto: oyster stand surprise that 'Bio-food' is gaining fast in popularity in France. There is 'bio'-Champagne and there is also a 'bio'-Cassis for making 'bio'-kirs.

Ireland exports 'bio'-fresh or smoked salmon to France, and there are also 'bio' chickens, lamb, and even escargots. Cheeses are made from 'bio'-milk and there are 'bio' desserts too. No coffee is grown in France, so 'bio' coffee coming from Chiapas in Mexico should be no surprise, except for its price.

Not only 'in' the street, but sold on it as well. Here: oysters.

While I am reading about all this 'green' food, my eye has wandered to the opposite page, where one headline says 'La Première Ecolo-Voiture' and another reads, 'La 406 Met Son Diesel au Vert,' which may mean you can truck your veggies home from the market in a 'bio'-car.

'Winter' Sports News

In one way or another, a lot of winter sports items have passed before my eyes during the week. I am sorry now I didn't note them down as they came along, because now they are scattered about and there is no time to put their details together.

Snow is everywhere and all the ski stations are open. I have learned that some smaller stations, in order to compete, are arranging themselves to handle the fans of snowboarding and other unusual sports - who are not always welcome in the big, traditional ski resorts.

Smaller resorts also mean smaller prices, less crowding and friendlier service, and perhaps more of it. The smaller places have to 'try harder' so they do.

It is also possible, that you are like me and do not care a dot for 'winter sports,' and would just as soon not see any here. If this is the case, let me know - because there are plenty of other subjects to treat. If I ever get around to them.

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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