Calendar confusion: France takes Pentecost half-holiday

5th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 5, 2006 (AFP) - Half of France was at work while the other half relaxed on Monday, amid confusion over a government scheme to scrap a national holiday to create a healthcare fund for the aged.

PARIS, June 5, 2006 (AFP) - Half of France was at work while the other half relaxed on Monday, amid confusion over a government scheme to scrap a national holiday to create a healthcare fund for the aged.

The centre-right government decided in 2004 to transform the June 5 Pentecost, or Whit Monday, holiday into a so-called 'day of solidarity' after a deadly heat wave claimed 15,000 lives, mostly among the elderly.

The extra working day is designed to generate EUR 2 billion in support of the elderly and the disabled.

But the authorities backtracked this year following widespread protests, and reinstating the holiday for the public sector while allowing private companies to decide whether to work or not.

As a result, 40 percent of the country was at work — although schools and most public services were shut for the day.

All those who have Monday off are asked to give up another day instead — except in some large groups such as Total or TF1 television which have decided to contribute to the fund on their employees' behalf.

But union leaders charge that the scheme is unfair as it places the full burden of the solidarity fund on salaried workers compared to independent professions.

François Chérèque of the CFDT union slammed the situation as "grotesque".

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, on a visit to Finland, Monday defended the day of solidarity as a "revolution" although he admitted it was "not yet perfect."

"There is certainly room for improvement," he told reporters.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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