horz line

Hands Off My Holiday!

photo, 7:06, tuesday, 19 april

Tuesday, 19. April, 7:06, Montparnasse.

You Want To Work?

Paris:– Monday, 25. April 2005:– It seemed like a good idea at the time. In the summer of 2003 a heatwave in France hastened the demise of an extra 15,000 old folks, left behind and forgotten by a nation on holidays. Many were parked in homes designed for a mild climate, and they had no defense from continuous high temperatures. When it was over there was much hand–wringing.

The government stepped up with its 'idea of the week.' Thinking to take advantage of natural and national remorse, it proposed turning the national holiday of Pentecôte into a day of work for all, and converting all the tax proceedsphoto, freetime shopping from it into a fund for old folks. We could all work on the 7th Monday after Easter and celebrate the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples while happily working to pay for air conditioners in retirement homes. Nobody was against it.

Free time for – shopping.

The government, whose ministers had been on holiday like everyone else during the heatwave crises of 2003, finally got a text on the books in June of 2004. The extra day of work is meant to collect two billion euros, with 800 million going for retirement places, 800 million for the handicapped and 400 million destined to support old folks in their own residences. Curiously, 385 million euros are earmarked for 'future years' – possibly for new construction.

Like a lot of other 'ideas of the week,' that was then and this is now. While the fate of old folks is still fresh in the public's mind – TV–news likes to remind us – workers in France have had some time to think since the events of 2003. The first 'working' Pentecôte is this year, on 16. May.

A poll last week showed that the French are overwhelmingly not in favor of the measure, with a range of 66 to 75 percent against it. Taxpayers may want to askphoto, poster ps, non – 'what did the government do with all the money it collected in income taxes?' Is it broke again?

The measure is still here and the government assures us that all of us will be working. But the national school system, officially working, does not know if there will be any teachers in the classes. The national rail operator, the SNCF, has classed the day as a holiday. The offices of the security social will likely be closed, as will many city halls. La Poste is unlikely to be open.

Some private companies are staying strictly with the government and are considering Monday, 16. May as a normal working day. Other companies are being supple, calling the day all sorts of things other than working. Banks, for example, will probably be closed, but banks are often closed on Mondays.

Travel agents are unlikely to be closed. The month of May generally has more long weekends than any other month and some people take the whole thing off, but this year the calendar says that the only long weekend is the one with Pentecôte. Everybody wants to go to a bullfight or on a pilgrimage.


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