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Why the French prime minister is being sent ladies’ underwear

It might be all in a day's work for rock musicians and movie stars, but now France's prime minister is also being sent women's knickers in the post.

Why the French prime minister is being sent ladies' underwear
French prime minister Jean Castex is getting an unusual postbag. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

But it’s not just the charms of 55-year-old PM Jean Castex that have prompted the daily deliveries of lingerie – this is a particular form of protest.

Lingerie shops in France are currently classed as non-essential so are closed during the country’s ‘partial lockdown’ – even though hairdressers, book stores and music shops have all been classed as essential so stayed open.

A group of shop owners have hit on this particular form of protest, and are sending a steady stream of culottes to Castex, in the hope of catching his attention.

The protest, named Action Culottée, began with a video posted on TikTok in which a shop owner calls for others to join her, saying: “No, putting on underwear every morning is not something to be relegated to the background, we have every right to be open.”

@mmetoutlemonde21

Action Culottée ! 💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼 ##pourtoi ##pourtapage ##actionculottee ##matignon ##castex ##bisous

♬ son original – Mme Toutlemonde

She is particularly angry that supermarkets are allowed to keep selling underwear, creating an unfair situation for the lingerie shops.

In a press release, the organisers say small independent stores present a lower risk of the virus spreading.

“Studies show that it is not in independent shops that the risk of transmission is the highest. Our small stores allow us to regulate the flow of visitors in a precise manner.

“The big stores are open, welcome the public often without respecting the fixed distances and do not always enforce the measures of social distancing.”

The French government is expected to publish over the next two weeks a plan for reopening. No details are yet available, but ministers have suggested that the reopening will begin in mid May with the reopening of non-essential stores and bar and café terraces.

READ ALSO Schools, shops, bars and cafés – France’s timetable for reopening

Castex has so far not commented on his unusual postbag.

Vocab

Une culotte – knickers/panties (singular in French, as with trousers and jeans)

Sous-vêtements – underwear

Commerçant/commerçante – business owner

Une petite entreprise – a small business

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STRIKES

EXPLAINED: How could government intervene to settle Denmark nurses’ strike?

Over one in four people in Denmark are in favour of political intervention to resolve an ongoing nurses’ strike, but political resolutions to labour disputes are uncommon in the country.

EXPLAINED: How could government intervene to settle Denmark nurses’ strike?
Striking nurses demonstrate in Copenhagen on July 10th. OPhoto: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

In a new opinion poll conducted by Voxmeter on behalf of news wire Ritzau, 27.3 percent said they supported political intervention in order to end the current industrial conflict was has almost 5,000 nurses currently striking across Denmark, with another 1,000 expected to join the strike next month.

READ ALSO:

Over half of respondents – 52.6 percent – said they do not support political intervention, however, while 20.1 percent answered, “don’t know”.

That may be a reflection of the way labour disputes are normally settled within what is known as the ‘Danish model’, in which high union membership (around 70 percent) amongst working people means unions and employers’ organisations negotiate and agree on wages and working conditions in most industries.

The model, often referred to as flexicurity, is a framework for employment and labour built on negotiations and ongoing dialogue to provide adaptable labour policies and employment conditions. Hence, when employees or employers are dissatisfied, they can negotiate a solution.

But what happens when both sides cannot agree on a solution? The conflict can evolve into a strike or a lockout and, occasionally, in political intervention to end the dispute.

READ ALSO: How Denmark’s 2013 teachers’ lockout built the platform for a far greater crisis

Grete Christensen, leader of the Danish nurses’ union DSR, said she can now envisage a political response.

“Political intervention can take different forms. But with the experience we have of political intervention, I can envisage it, without that necessarily meaning we will get what we are campaigning for,” Christensen told Ritzau.

“Different elements can be put into a political intervention which would recognise the support there is for us and for our wages,” she added.

A number of politicians have expressed support for intervening to end the conflict.

The political spokesperson with the left wing party Red Green Alliance, Mai Villadsen, on Tuesday called for the prime minister Mette Frederiksen to summon party representatives for talks.

When industrial disputes in Denmark are settled by parliaments, a legal intervention is the method normally used. But Villadsen said the nurses’ strike could be resolved if more money is provided by the state.

That view is supported by DSR, Christensen said.

“This must be resolved politically and nurses need a very clear statement to say this means wages will increase,” the union leader said.

“This exposes the negotiation model in the public sector, where employers do not have much to offer because their framework is set out by (parliament),” she explained, in reference to the fact that nurses are paid by regional and municipal authorities, whose budgets are determined by parliament.

DSR’s members have twice voted narrowly to reject a deal negotiated between employers’ representatives and their union.

The Voxmeter survey consists of responses from 1,014 Danish residents over the age of 18 between July 15th-20th.

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