Blog: Simon WarburtonBeach brothers plot return to fray

Simon Warburton | 14 August 2012

"I'm on holiday until the end of August - only leave a message if it's urgent," was one voicemail I was put through to today (14 August) from a French union.

And that's a pretty typical reaction I've had all this week from "les camarades" in France, who, in the spirit of solidarity, have all seemingly decamped to the beach.

In fairness it's not just a Latin trait - I tried some of their German colleagues this afternoon and was met with exactly the same response.

The flurry of calls to various European unions has been prompted by major speculation in Germany of a far deeper collaboration between PSA and Opel surrounding production.

As if the atmosphere wasn't feverish enough among French unions with PSA's recent announcement it would scythe its workforce by up to 8,000 and shut its Aulnay plant, the latest rumours have spooked them even more.

That doesn't stop the mass exodus to the beach however, and as someone who used to live in Paris, I can attest to the French custom of being wedded to taking virtually the whole of August off. 

It's not a cliche, it's true, the metro was emptier, as were streets, restaurants, shops, you name it, travelling around was a breeze.

Having got relatively nowhere with the unions I thought I would try to book the same hotel for the Paris Motor Show I used last time - a modest billet but brilliantly just a ten-minute walk from the Porte de Versailles exhibition hall. However, I was met with the now-usual refrain - "we're on holiday until 29 August - thank you for your understanding."

Maybe the French have got it just about right by sticking resolutely to their traditions though. Britain - or 'Team GB' as we must now contractually call ourselves - has just had the mother of all - successful - Olympic jamborees and could do with a bit of beach time just like our French friends.

Back across the English Channel and just to add a certain hint of menace to proceedings, the CGT union is dangling the phrase it is 'preparing to come back from the summer holidays with a sense of mobilisation.'

The French like to refer to the 'hot autumn' when fresh from la plage, a frenetic round of industrial strife often accompanies the return to work.

Maybe the CGT and their fellow unions are plotting just that as they relax on the Cote d'Azur, which is incidentally where French President, Francois Hollande, was taking his annual break.

He however, was presumably hoping to keep a low profile from bumping into any of them, although from my voicemails, it sounds as if it's gettting pretty crowded down there. 


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