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by Maurice Ulrich

The Government is Putting People on a Diet

Translated Tuesday 22 September 2009, by Alison Billington

Nearly ten days now, without Nicolas Sarkozy. Hardly a peep out of him to say he’ll meet the bankers when he comes back. France has begun its holidays in earnest and the president has followed the general trend. No lovingly holding each other round the waist in a jet-ski in the United States, no billionaire yacht. No, Madam’s family home, in Cap Nègre. France is managing, the TV tells us in speak enlightening reports on all those who, in the midst of a crisis, succeed in finding happiness in a country lane, on a small beach or in a mobile home. They go on holidays nearer to home, or on shorter holidays, camping or to visit family, like the President, nevertheless, they go on holiday. Except for nearly half of them who stay behind.

In one year, the number of French people who don’t go on holiday will have increased by nearly 10%. French women should be mentioned first, for single women with children are among the most affected. It’s another record like the record number of miles of traffic jams on the motorways but we talk about it less. These are the forgotten ones. Concrete on the horizon and a line of council houses opposite. Perhaps a monthly trip to Macdonalds, or better to a leisure park or a day at the seaside with Secours Populaire [1] charity.

So there are those who go on holiday, be it on a shoestring. 34% of young people do it with a budget of less than £150.00. Camping, with the minimum of outings, sharing between friends. What do they expect by way of living it up for a fiver a day? 35% of women go on holiday with less than £150.00. It’s an opportunity to put people on diet. A tomato dipped in salt has nevertheless, less calories than a meal in a four star hotel. Five fresh fruits or vegetables on the other hand…don’t even think about it. But it’s a crisis, and we all stick together. Holiday-makers from all social classes, unite.

In reality, holidays reveal inequalities clearly. The crisis is certainly there, but it also has a broad back. If the statistics showing those who do not go on holiday are up this year, 40% of the French never go on holiday. Imprisoned in the home without any form of trial. Moreover nothing new in youth, single women, those most confronted with insecurity, with the lowest salaries, obviously being the ones least likely to get a holiday. For many of them, moving from one small job to another with lodging and food bills to pay no matter what, holidays do not even exist. Or perhaps the time spent holding back anger and impatience while shut in by the four walls of a studio flat twelve yards square, should be called holidays. Call unemployment, holidays.

Paid holidays are one of the major conquests which marked the socialist movement. But, in practice, they have not been obtained for everybody, far from it. They are a conquest, like the forty-hour week, like the eight-hour day, like Sunday as a day of rest. All the things Sarkozy’s policies are methodically destroying. As we know, the government has just sanctioned widespread working on Sundays in areas loosely called tourist spots. This at the price of barefaced lies and cynicism which is no less brazen. Volontary work is a lie! Who can believe for a moment that the cashier in a hypermarket will refuse? The cynicism is that of the Secretary of State, Hervé Novelli, who replying on the radio to a listener who asked him what should be done with children on Sundays said that the government wanted to create business kindergarden ! Business kindergarden in areas designated tourist spots where already even the most elementary rights of the paid workers are not respected in numerous cases. Hervé Novelli should have answered: Madam, you will never have holidays, you will work on Sundays and manage your children yourself.

[1Secours populaire is a non-profit-making association that helps poor families and others go on holiday among other things.

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