PARIS—In a recent controversy where an artist has illustrated each country of the European Union with a symbol, France has been portrayed with an "On Strike" protest flag. The piece now lives in the Union offices in Brussels.
For better or worse, the past two weeks are likely to strengthen the long-lasting stereotype. On Tuesday Jan. 29, massive strikes across public transportation, administrative, national radio, and university sectors have brought protesters to the streets to oppose the fast-paced reforms of Prime Minister François Fillon’s government—police estimate 1 million protesters were out, while labor unions estimate 2 million.
Fillon has been driving cuts and a massive reorganization of civil service, calling for greater efficiency, trying to institute strict result-evaluation procedures, and much apart, that is notoriously difficult to root in professions which are largely used to unchallenged and full employment security. French bureaucrats are ensured life-long employment.
The reform of French universities that, according to the government, is supposed to create strong and dynamic research campuses, allow universities to create and manage their own intellectual property portfolios, and strengthen links with industry.
Despite that the French government has already injected more than 1 billion euro to boost universities and increase researchers’ wages, a long-term strike has just been launched by some who refute the idea that, under the new system, successful researchers would have less teaching duties than those engaged in what is termed “lower-level academic production.”
Almost half of the university lecturers have stopped working since Feb. 2, claim the FSU, the first labor union in the education sector.