HR Strange But True!
December 27, 2001
We all know that HR is never boring. But sometimes it's downright strange...

Manning the baricades

In France, 'tis the season to strike.

Each new day brings another disgruntled group of public-sector workers clamoring for more money and better living standards. It started with museum workers - who forced France's finest art houses to shut down - and has even spread to the unemployed, who marched recently to demand bigger Christmas bonuses in their year-end benefits checks.

This year, civil servants have the extra leverage of upcoming presidential elections. Their holiday wishes are more likely to be granted, but each concession drags the government deeper into a vicious circle.

"It's become a chain reaction," said labor-conflict expert Guy Groux. As the springtime elections approach, he said, pressure grows on incumbents to make concessions. "Everyone is asking, `Why them and not me?"'

Indeed, Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin - a likely candidate for president - has earned the nickname "Santa Claus" from the French media for his government's recent outpouring of generosity.

Police officers, angered by a wave of violent attacks in which seven officers were killed, waged a successful protest for higher pay and funds for better equipment. Their success inspired the gendarmes - police who belong to the military and patrol the French countryside - to hold a spate of unprecedented protests. They won sharp pay increases and more staffing.

"It's called crisis management," Defense Minister Alain Richard said in defence of the pricey truce.

Source: The Associated Press, via CNN

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