En grève. On strike!


'One strike may conceal another!'

‘One strike may conceal another’

Note to readers: The management would like to apologize for any inconvenience as the regularly scheduled post cannot be shown this week due to a labour dispute.

This would not be a blog about life in France without a little strike action. The right to strike – faire grève – is deeply engrained in the French culture, and it is one that is regularly exercised.

As the French national rail company, SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français), or, as I’ve heard it popularly referred to: Société Nationale des Connards et de Fainéants – national company of jerks and lazy asses – now enters its second week of strike, I feel inspired to join them.

There is a certain time pressure. The period between the month of long weekends in May and the official start of the summer holiday period in July is all too short. This is prime-time strike season: a window of opportunity to make your point before heading out for some well-earned vacation.

So, I am officially on strike this week in protest against the poor pay and work conditions offered by WordPress. Since starting this blog over a year ago I have received zero remuneration and no time off. Don’t even ask about medical and retirement benefits! Sure, I’ve enjoyed it, gained a great many readers and met fellow bloggers whose work I also enjoy. On a personal level, I have learned a lot, enriched my writing and had a lot of fun. But fun is not the point.

The point is that if I don’t strike now and send a very strong message to the management, who knows where it will all end? WordPress might be taken over by foreign owners who could impose an even more draconian regime. Who can say? They may very well outsource my (unpaid) job to India.

No, I’m not a member of any union. Didn’t you know that the French are among the least unionized workers in the world? But I will defend to the death my right to strike. Negotiations you ask? Maybe. All in due time. Strike first, negotiate later, that’s the French way!

So when you come back next week (you will return of course?), I hope to be able to once again offer normal service. But I’m not making any promises.

Vive la France!


  1. davidprosser · June 19, 2014

    Chere Madame, I regret to inform you that as of the day you return to work, your services are no longer required.
    We have secured the services of someone who will work for even less pay than you
    ( i.e. They’ll pay us) and who requires even less time off since they’re willing to blog twice a day 365 days a year.
    Please prepare your readers for the change over and instruct them that they’ll have to take a course in Urdu in order to continue to be allowed to read this blog.
    Wishing you a long and Happy Retirement

    • MELewis · June 19, 2014

      LMFAO! You are in fine form this morning, sir! Big bises.

  2. Suzanne et Pierre · June 19, 2014

    Too funny…Great article on the strike mentality in France…I was also surprised that they are among the lowest rate of unionisation when we did some research for a post we wrote last week…(Suzanne)

    • MELewis · June 19, 2014

      Yes, it is surprising, given the frequency and intensity of the strikes! But the unions still seem to be quite powerful as they are part of the management structure in every major company. Glad you enjoyed!

  3. cheergerm · June 19, 2014

    I would come back to read your post next week but I am afraid that I too shall be on strike.

    • MELewis · June 19, 2014

      WordPress writers unite! 🙂

  4. MELewis · March 22, 2018

    Reblogged this on FranceSays and commented:

    It’s officially spring, mes amis! And in France that means strike season. As the SNCF and others kick off what will surely be a prolonged strike action (2 days per week for now, a new part-time approach that shows the unions are thinking outside the box…) I have decided to reblog this post from the early days of FranceSays. Hopefully still as fresh as spring!

  5. francetaste · March 22, 2018

    On the one hand, I am pro-union and enjoy seeing the power of the people exercised. I also understand their frustration that they are being asked to take cuts to their modest lifestyles while the rich can park their money in off-shore accounts hidden by shell companies in order to not pay their fair share of taxes. On the other hand, cynical politicians in the past used the baby boom like a pyramid scheme, promising people ever-earlier retirements. “Les grandes vacances,” is how some early-pensioned friends call it. They are better off retired than they were working. Obviously that’s the road to bankruptcy and can’t go on.
    I would think a clever, tech-savvy young banker like Macron would be able to find a way to track down the off-shore millions efficiently, creating an app for it or something. Other cash-strapped governments would rush to follow suit. There would be money to pay the cheminots’ pensions, too.

    • MELewis · March 22, 2018

      Hmm….not sure I believe the off-shore millions are just sitting there waiting to be caught like a big fat fish by a smart banker. It just seems a bit too easy. 🙂
      On the other hand, agree that the fairytale of earlier and fatter retirement has been sold hook, line and sinker to the people. It’s just so far from the reality of what is needed!
      And as for the right to strike, I agree on one level but not with the way the strike is institutionalized in France. It’s the knee-jerk reaction to any reform or whisper of change. Strike first, negotiate later. Rapport de force. This idea that it is the only way of defending workers’ rights feels wrong to me. There’s got to be a better way!

      • francetaste · March 22, 2018

        The point about the offshore millions is exactly that they’re just too hard to find. The government goes after the low-hanging fruit instead. I admit to being disgusted with the illegal AirBnBs in my town, since we are paying taxes and URSSAF and all the other charges on ours. But what I’d like to see even more than cracking down on those scofflaws is a real effort to get the off-shore cheaters. The rich make a calculation that by spending X they can avoid 10X or 100X of taxes. When the government makes it too difficult and expensive to cheat, and when cheaters actually get convicted, then the rich will decide it’s easier just to pay. And when they start to pay, the cheminots will feel less that they have to bear alone the burden of fixing the budget.

  6. Osyth · March 22, 2018

    Yup – that’s the ticket …. strike and then take off on your big fat summer holiday …

  7. Kiki · March 22, 2018

    This is bloody hilarious…. if sad of course! We both, HH and myself, will suffer the consequences. We both have booked different TGV trips which fall, of course, on days of strike!!! AND they speak of two days per week but as per the strike calendar it’s more often than not 3 days…. Yes, we are all terrible imbeciles!

  8. Kiki · March 22, 2018

    Mel, you know the really bad thing is that it was written in 2014 and it’s as valid now as it was then…. That is scary! And has anybody learned anything at ALL during all those years (and surely years to come)???? Nope – it renders simply EVERYBODY sick with disgust, drives the already stressed out folks in droves on the already congested roads, nothing will be gained by anybody…. BUT we have a right to go on strike, so we shall do so!

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