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Perrier Flat

photo, nuit blanche, place de rennes

Advertising the night we're in.

Holdup of the Week

Paris:– Monday, 4. October 2004:– Nestle Waters owns Perrier, located in Vergèze. Nestle is not happy with the productivity at Perrier, so the management is wrestling with its unions. The majority union is the CGT, and it was in opposition to the management's plan and the other unions' agreement with it.

So Minister of Finance Nicolas Sarkozy had a chat with Bernard Thibault, head of the CGT, and Bernard talked to the CGT at Vergèze and they had a vote, again, and dropped their opposition to the company's plan.

Then on Monday somebody decided that the agreement at Vergèze applied to the other units of Nestle Waters, such as Contrex and Quèzac. While Sarkozy was complimenting everybodyphoto, starbucks for being sensible – Bercy is adding euros to the Nestle pot – then Nestle wakes up and says that the CGT's abandonment of opposition isn't enough – it must accept a restructuration. Nestle lets it be known that Perrier's sale is still a possibility.

Montparnasse has always needed – coffee?

Last Tuesday the employees voted to quit opposition to the original plan. The CGT asked the government to get Nestle back on the rails. The company ended up threatening the employees with layoffs and forced early retirements again.

To Nestle the Perrier brand is just another marketing chip within their cupboard full of brands. It's not as if Nestle created the Perrier brand over decades, lived with its ups and downs, and built it up to worldwide recognition. The same is not the case with the employees, some of whom have been on the job for decades.

The problem in France is that big food conglomos flush with cash have bought all sorts of small brands, and then applied their notions of global scale to them. Right now there are instances of hardball between these giants and their minor holdings – usually to the effect that if the employees don't agree to whatever 'plan' the company has, then they'll sell, shut down, or move the production to eastern Europe – or China.

Computer, 1€ a Day

While something like 80 percent of students have access to the Internet, only about eight percent have a portable computer of their own. Last Tuesday the Minister of Education, François Fillon, announced that everybody could have one for as little as 1€ per day. The Internet was immediately flooded with orders.

Le Parisien says it is an ambitious plan, adding that by 2007 students will be able to take care of educational administrative details online. The government budget for the action is given as 209 million euros over three years.

Student leaders aren't too sure about this 'gift.' Instead of facing the minister of education, they are confronted by the manufacturers' commercial agents. Even at 1€ per day, 100,000 students can't do it because they are below the poverty level. A major student federation salutes the idea while complaining that the government isn't about to make any contribution towards the deposits that will be required.

Thirty models of portable computers have been proposed by the manufacturers. Some are available on the open market at hypermarchés for less. The Fnac chain opted out, but is offering its own version of the deal for 15 days. photo, st pierre de montrouge

Government spokesmen say that the offer isn't supposed to be 'cheapest on the market,' but the best value. The offered computers are not top of the line, but do have the necessary software.

It's up to the students to arrange their Internet access themselves. By next year the universities are supposed to be able to offer Internet access to all for free. Some universities, without naming any in Paris, already offer access.

Not much happening outside Saint–Pierre de Montrouge.

It is possible to buy a portable for as little as 929€ cash. But what's there for most is a loan, of 1000 to 3000 euros, for a minimum of 30€ per month over three years. All a student has to do is one night of babysitting and the month's payment is taken care of. For the impoverished students some universities will lend them a computer, or guarantee the loan.

This reminds me of a couple of past 'computers for everybody' promotions by the government. If they had been carried out everybody would be seeking replacement machines by now, instead of new ones.

The program has been in operation for two years at universities in the Rhône–Alps region. Two manufacturers agreed to list–price reductions of 15 to 40 percent off, and 3500 students took it up. At Grenoble they have free Internet access, and the administration there is thinking of lending computers to those who can't afford them.

Holdup of the Week

The Biennale des Antiquaries was wending its quietly luxurious and refined way through its biannual show last week at the Carrousel du Louvre. Around 15:00 last Tuesday five of six eastern European 'monsieurs' appeared in the room where there was a display case belonging to the jeweler Chopard.

They engaged the various employees with requests for additional information about pieces on display. While otherwise engaged, two other 'monsieurs' engaged a display case containing two diamonds, one of 47 carats and the other of 30. There was a distraction, and poof! The five or six monsieurs and the two diamonds were no longer there.

There was no alarm on the glass display case, and the room was not equipped with video cameras. Police borrowed videos from the nearby Cartier display area, and from the Carrousel du Louvre's set. The police aren't saying what they've seen on the videos, if anything.

The thieves even didn't bother to take a rose diamond, worth a lot more, from the same case. The two that are missing were estimated to be worth 11.5 million euros. The jeweler's insurance company visited the site, to check the security precautions, after the theft.

'Liberal' Conservatives

Not everybody on the right–wing is perfectly happy with Président Jacques Chirac and the Prime Minister, Jean–Pierre Raffarin. Last year a group of economically–liberal conservatives led by UMP deputy Herve Novelli were noisily negative about the 35–hour work week.

This year as the Assembly National resumes its sessions the same group is demanding that the 'reform' ofphoto, fruit stand, grocery the 'rich–tax' include a 50 percent exoneration of it, if the money is invested. They also want the government to institute a 'minimum service' law for striking transport workers.

For fruit and veg, every night is a Nuit Blanche.

They want civil servants to work to the same rules as in the private sector, and the want the government's ENA – administration school – turned into a business school.

Wherever they where, there were 800 of them and they whistled against the 'two lost years' of Raffarin's government and against the 'promises not kept' by the president, and against the 50 percent of deputies who are also civil servants.

A Quiet Election

The French Senat is a funny old duck. Senators are elected not universally but by 50,733 'grands electors' who are themselves elected. The Senat is reforming itself, by reducing terms to six years from nine, and dropping the minimum age to 30. The average age is 54, and there are 97 senators over 70.

There are supposed to be more ladies elected to the Senat too, because that's what half of senators are supposed to be. But men head the 'lists,' and will even create dissident 'lists' so they can remain heads of them. Ending a political career in the clubby senat is the dream of many deputies.

Of the 321 seats up for election, there were 162 belonging to the UMP party. The question was, a week ago Sunday, howphoto, tabac, le dome many would the UMP retain, after losing in three other elections this year? In order to keep a majority the conservative UMP was worried that it might have to cohabit with François Bayrou's liberal–conservative UDF.

Nuit Blanches are made for smokers.

As it turned out the UMP managed to keep a majority of two seats, although it lost three seats for Paris. The UDF got three extra seats and lost one. The Socialists gained a dozen seats and Les Verts bettered their score too. Ladies upped their score too, from 34 before to 56 last Sunday.

Notably reelected was Prime Minister Jean–Pierre Raffarin. But he must resign his seat because it looks like he will continue on as Prime Minister for a while longer. Some other government ministers who won Senat seats may chose to leave the government for the safer Senat.

The former president of the Senat, Christian Poncelet, easily overcame competition from another UMP candidate, to win reelection as head of the Senat. I'm looking forward to his next tree planting in the Senat's garden, the Luxembourg.

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