Nos meilleurs délais

‘Nos meilleurs délais’ is one of those very French expressions I struggle with. In theory it means ‘at our earliest convenience’, ‘in a timely manner’ or simply as soon as possible. In practice, soon is not possible. I find that in France instead of ASAP, ‘delay’ is the operative word.

We are in the midst of a month of delays due to various strikes and it is surely only right and normal that things slow down. But there has been no mail in my box this week and yesterday the internet went down for the better part of the day. Without a word of warning, or explanation.

I tried to be zen. “Work on something that doesn’t require the internet,” my reasonable self told less patient me. Okay. I took a crack at writing the new business proposal I’d been thinking of sending out. But I wanted to check on a quote to include. Then on a company I was planning on contacting. So I tried again. With a different browser. Still no ignition.

I called Orange. That’s the recently rebranded name for the phone service, what most French people still think of as France Telecom. I did not get a human being, bien sûr. After pressing various numbers, including my full, 10-digit land line, I was directed to the right voice box. It informed me that, due to an ‘incident’ in my area, they were unable to help me further. However, if I so wished, I could punch in my mobile number and they would text me when it was resolved. In went my mobile number.

I hung up and promptly received an SMS on my clunky old French cell, the one I keep for essential messages with service providers who only want to send info to a mobile. My smart phone is for work, and that’s a Swiss number. Orange had kindly sent a link to a website where I could get further updates on the internet breakdown. Argh!

Unable to access the link from my (dumb, unconnected) French phone, it occurred to me I could use my iPhone. In fact, it occurred to me that I could connect my computer to my phone’s hotspot via my Swiss provider and get an internet connection. Ignition! It was too slow to be very convenient (as I’m on the edge of network coverage) but it was a start.

Unfortunately Orange wanted my log-in details, which didn’t have. After farting around with that for a while, I finally got a new password and accessed my account. When, after scrolling through various sections, I got to the part about internet service, it said: “We are experiencing a larger than normal request for support and will respond to your request as soon as possible.”

Nos meilleurs délais? I gave up.

Macron has committed to getting all of France wired for ultra-high-speed internet by 2022. But it seems that in order to meet this commitment in a timely manner  not everyone will get fibre but 4G. Fast, but not super fast. Still, our current so-called high speed service here in the boonies is so slow that I’ll take that with pleasure.

The main reason for all of the strikes at the moment is the reform of the ‘cheminots’ or national rail company employees. This has been in the works for some time and has to do with a European directive on opening up the train lines to competition. Although the current SNCF employees have been promised that they will keep all of their rights and salary, they are striking for the future. They want all new hires to also keep their status as public workers, with perks and premiums and the opportunity of a full pension at 52.

Clearly this is not going to happen. But for the unions, and a majority of French, it’s the thin end of the wedge. If the cheminots go down, it’s the end of life as we know it. Automated cashiers and driverless cars and soon we’ll all be force-fed ready meals from MacDo.

In the meantime, five hours later, the internet came back on. I googled to find out whether Orange had been on strike but there was no mention in the news. I have concluded that it was a stealth operation by disgruntled workers in a show of sympathy.

But everybody else and his uncle is on strike this spring: Air France (they want a 6% pay increase), garbage collectors, energy workers, university students. The latter are worrying as they are the ones credited for bringing the country to its knees in May 1968. More on that later.

Have you been affected by any strikes lately?

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!