Only a strike by parking inspectors, accountants or estate agents could have elicited less public sympathy than that shown for France’s chemists yesterday. They staged a one-day protest over plans to deregulate some of the drugs they sell.
The timing is an embarrassment for the French government, of course, coming just days after Air France pilots ended their high-profile strike action.
Pharmacies are among the few shops to have survived in almost every village across France. Getting fresh bread in each day from a boulangerie strikes us Brits as one of the most charming aspects of French life. The need to visit the chemist almost as regularly leaves us bewildered, however.
“Even the threat of not having pharmacies open for a day was enough to make the government back down on its plans”
France’s chemists have grown wealthy as a result of the countrywide obsession with health. The French, some would say, are a nation of hypochondriacs.
Understandably, then, pharmacists weren’t happy to find themselves on a list of 37 professions to face regulation. The rest include professions such as notaires – who staged a street protest earlier in September – and driving instructors.
Even the threat of not having pharmacies open for a day was enough to make the government back down on its plans. It is now to delay the introduction of laws that would allow simple medicines such as aspirin to be sold more widely, such as in supermarkets.
The impact of further threatened action by other professions will test the remainder of government’s determination. But, if they need a pill for that, they know where not to turn.