In Paris market, election talk centres on "work crisis"

17th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

RUNGIS, France, April 17, 2007 (AFP) - In the Rungis wholesale market in southern Paris -- Europe's biggest entrepot for fresh produce -- presidential election talk is dominated by the "work crisis" and the tough measures needed to reverse France's declining economic fortunes.

RUNGIS, France, April 17, 2007 (AFP) - In the Rungis wholesale market in southern Paris -- Europe's biggest entrepot for fresh produce -- presidential election talk is dominated by the "work crisis" and the tough measures needed to reverse France's declining economic fortunes.

"A country is like a business. Sometimes there are steps that have to be taken that no one likes -- but you have to do them because otherwise you go under," said Roland Druais, a 56-year-old fruit and vegetable merchant, stacking boxes of avocados early Monday morning.

"It's like a few years back when my little company got in trouble here and we had to lay some people off. It wasn't easy -- but you've got to do what you've got to do."

Built in 1969 to replace Paris's historic Les Halles market, Rungis is a sprawling complex of warehouses and lorry parks next to the A6 motorway. Dawn sees hundreds of workers unloading cheese, meat and shell-fish brought from points across France for shops and restaurants in the capital.

This is "La France qui bosse" -- the France that goes to work -- beloved of Nicolas Sarkozy, right-wing favourite in Sunday's election. Not surprisingly "Sarko's" ideas on rehabilitating the work ethic go down well here -- though much less positive is the response to the man himself.

"I'll probably vote for Sarko -- but with no great enthusiasm," said cheese-porter Thierry Dumesnil, 40.

"We've become a society of do-nothings. Everyone's on welfare. It's all very well being 'France -- land of asylum', but ordinary people end up paying the tab for the immigrants. I can't vote left. In France, we've tried that. If the Socialists get in again, it really will be the end of the road."

Florian Sicard, selling wheels of "comte" cheese from eastern France, said he is hesitating between Sarkozy, 52, and centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, 55.

"It's not that I find Sarkozy scary -- which some people do -- but I do think he can be a bit extreme.The problem with Bayrou is that nothing will change with him. He's too soft.

"What's good about Sarko is that when he talks he's clear and straight down the line. But I don't like the way he supports Sunday opening for the big supermarkets. That's bad news for us. For me, it's liberalism taken too far," he said.

Even supporters of the Socialist candidate Segolene Royal, 53, said that Sarkozy's campaign themes of ending welfare dependency and encouraging people to work harder are factors in their choice. Royal has herself spoken of the need for welfare recipients to give some service to society in return.

"All the ideas are getting mixed up. Sarkozy's got some left-wing ideas and Segolene's got some right-wing ones. So in the end it comes down to personality, and I find Segolene more reassuring -- less scary," said Karfalla Sylla, 47, a fruit and vegetable porter born in Ivory Coast.

"But the welfare problem is really important. Here we keep getting people looking for a job, but when they're told the pay they say it's not worth their while. As soon as they start work, they'd lose all these advantages like free television licences and free public transport," he said.

"The big problems facing France are the lack of freedom to do your own thing, the lack of reward for people who take risks, and an administration that never changes, that blocks everything," said Albert Ohayan, who runs the Raphael fruit and vegetable wholesale business.

"I would vote for Sarkozy, but I can't -- because when he was interior minister he was the one who put up all the speed cameras and set the police against ordinary motorists. It's his coercive side. Giving police all that power is not right.

"What with the rioting in the 'banlieues', he's managed to get everyone united against the police -- good guys and bad guys alike," he said.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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