Because I promised Colin a strike update ages ago.
France has (broadly) a Socialist background. That means you have job security. A very short trial period, and then for most jobs (office jobs, doctors, teachers, transit workers, etc.) you have to really fuck up to be fired. All well and good, yes? No, because the unemployment that companies have to pay negates any real benefit to downsizing, and the country is getting into some financial troubles. So, the government tried to institute the CPE. And that's when all hell broke loose.
'Da CPE--Contrat de Premier Engagement, I think. Says that you have a two year trial period, during which you get paid less, and can be fired at the end of it for no reason, rather than being offered a contract. Theoretically if you actually work it shouldn't be an issue. People are scared, however, because it would save companies money to just fire every two years.
'Da Students: Interesting to note, not all of them are against it, but a large minority are, and are very vocal. Oh yeah. One more thing. CPE only really gets to be applied to those aged 18-25. Hence the university students are up in arms. And what do French people do to protest government actions?
'Da Grève: You guessed it. Strike! Strike! So the students in about half the universities in France (there are eighty-odd universities) and in some high schools as well, have forcibly obstructed the buildings and are preventing people from conducting or attending classes. There have been hundreds of manifestations, and some rioting. The rioting, or at least the breaking things, generally occurs because homeless people on the street get mixed in with more peaceful protesters and start breaking things. They are called les casseurs and are probably not on American TV.
'Da Police: Accusations of police brutality are not on the local news and I assume are mostly happpening during larger, noisier protests when overexcited police deploy tear gas. I avoid the manifs if at all possible because tear gas + disability + large angry mob= man down. Bad.
'Da foreign students: Universities are preparing work to count for foreign students--short seminar classes and papers. My grammar, translation, and phonetics classes have continued. Alternate locations, but they go on.
'Da Duration: Since two days before spring break in mid-Feb, here in Montpellier. Probably will continue to end of school year.