The Other Big Strike

photo: bistro le maillot

Close to the Palais des Congrès, everybody wears suits.

Sports News: 'Bravo!'

Paris:- Sunday, 6. June 1999:- The near-total Paris public transport strike last Wednesday and Thursday was sparked off by what was at first thought to be an assault on a security worker for the RATP during the day on Tuesday.

Except for RER trains operated by the SNCF, all public transport in Paris came to a standstill - no buses, no métro trains, and no RER 'A' and 'B' trains, which are operated by the RATP. Passengers were stranded in front of locked métro entrances.

In fact, in the course of a control of two street fruit peddlers on Tuesday, the RATP agent had a brain hemorrhage and later died in hospital. Police questioned witnesses who all confirmedphoto: waiting for taxi, st lazare, wednesday that there had been no physical violence. The two men believed to be involved, are still being sought as witnesses, but there are no serious charges against them.

The line of passengers waiting for taxis at Saint-Lazare last Wednesday.

This news began to circulate on Thursday, and dropped from Le Parisien's front page to page II in the centre section in Friday's editions.

All the same, unions negotiated with management all night from Wednesday to Thursday, for increased security measures. The result: an extra 80 police officers and a company of CRS troops were agreed upon.

As an exceptional measure, both unions and management agreed to shut down Paris' public transport on Monday, from 13:30 to 16:30, to enable workers to attend the funeral of the deceased agent.

Also on Tuesday, a bus driver on the Choisy-Orly line was doused with an inflammable liquid after he asked a passenger with two bottles full of petrol to get off the bus. Other drivers on the same line stopped work because of the incident, but no more was reported about it.

Windshieldwiperless Windows

Just when you were thinking nobody was inventing anything these days other than new video games, along comes a French inventor with something really useful - car windshields than need no wipers.

Daniel Semain, a research scientist at the state's brain-tank, the CNRS, turned a piece of paperposter: euro vote, dany the red and a hair-dryer into something resembling what happens to ducks in the rain - water doesn't stick to them like it does to you and me and our car's windshield.

Monsieur Semain has been fiddling with molecules of course, and he's developed some for treating glass so that water just falls off it without a trace. The process has been breveted and Mr. Semain wants your car's manufacturer to use it. The treatment can also be applied to existing cars in about 45 minutes, for a cost of around $100.

A reminder: European elections are...

The 'no wipers' is not on, because the process is not effective against mud and bugs - but it will be handy for seeing out of all windows on rainy days. This process really works - France's biggest producer of wipers is thinking of 'redefining' their purpose.

Unemployment Drops

While France is not in the doghouse with its unemployment rate of 11.4 percent, it is somewhat above the European average of 9.6 percent. However the tendency is down and it has been dropping for all types of unemployed fairly steadily since late 1997.

While Spain has the highest rate in Europe, the numbers of those seeking work has tumbled by 18 percent over the last two years. Britain, which is not in the 'Euro' zone, has a low rate of just six percent. Smaller countries which are relatively well-off are Denmark, Ireland, Austria and Holland.

In France, nine out of ten job offers are for fixed-term contracts rather than for indefinite employment - which of course makes people wonder whether they should trade unemployment benefits for an unstable position. For the long-term unemployed, this question is not a factor; but these have seen their ranks fall by only about 50,000 new jobs from the record high set in mid-1998.

For Sale: Tati - Not Cheap!

Due to ferocious competition, the Tati chain of low-priced textile shops is for sale. In recent years Tati has sought to branch out into areas with higher mark-ups such as jewelry, candy and eye-glasses. Sales are reported to have fallen by 35 percent between 1991 and 1996.

The price apparently being sought is thought the be in the 600 million-france range, for a totalposter: euro vote, socialist, f hollande turn-over of 1.2 billion. There are supposed to be some interested parties, but one of them is not the Pinault, Printemps, La Redoute conglomo.

'Socially-Correct' Café?

Apparently the Italians, the British, the Dutch and the Germans have being paying a bit more for the coffee brand 'Max-Havelaar' because it is made of beans grown in poorer third-world countries. Sunday, 13. June. Don't forget to vote.

The idea to pay more was started ten years ago by the Max Havelaar Foundation, which launched the brand at prices which would ensure the producers would be able to afford education and health care.

The coffee with this label is on sale in France in big supermarket chains and costs about 10 percent more than competing brands of coffee. Starting in September, France's national deputies are supposed to start drinking it too.

Minimal Sports News

Tennis is also on the evening's TV-news, with the 108th edition of the French Open. I never watch this unless the Williams sisters are on and I happen to be looking at the TV at the same time. Unluckily for me, neither seems to be the case.

I wrote the above last week. This week, 'Bravo' Steffi Graf and 'Bravo' André Agassi, is all I wish to add.

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