Thursday, September 06, 2007

They won't get me, I'm part of the union...

Since I hadn't had any news about my job, and since no one was picking up the phone at the academie, someone suggested I give the unions a call. Now I know French trade unionists generally get a bad press and the general impression is that they call a strike any time they're asked to do any actual work, but I have to say I was impressed. Someone actually picked up the phone withing ten rings, listened to me, sounded concerned and didn't just try to pass me over to someone else. Result!

They actually rang me back the same afternoon to let me know they'd been in touch with the academie, and there were, indeed, some serious delays going on. Quite reassuring to have someone else tell me that I'd done all the right things as you expect fonctionnaires to try to make out it's all your fault because you put your signature two millimetres the wrong side of the dotted line or something (the best tactic in this kind of situation is to be stubborn enough that it becomes more work for them not to solve your problem).

What impressed me most was that I'm not actually in a union right now. I was a very active union member in my last job in England, and there was no way I could help anyone who wasn't a member, and not even then if the problem had arisen before they'd joined. It seems that over here they can help anyone. Maybe that would explain why I read somewhere than only around 10% of French workers are unionized as opposed to around 30% in the UK. Why hand your money over if they provide services like this for free?

The trouble is that most people only hear about unions in the press when there's a strike on, so they naturally think that all they do is pick fights with le patronnat. OK, every union has its headbanger loony members who joined up to smash capitalism, but the good work they do hardly ever gets mentioned. Of course, if certain people did their jobs properly, unions wouldn't need to get involved.

BTW I did actually get through to the academie myself this afternoon, but I'll tell you about that later.

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