More than 60 percent of French workers took Monday off this week in observance of Pentecost, even though the holiday was officially canceled last year. The government abolished the holiday to raise money to care for the elderly. The move was sparked by national embarrassment over the deaths of some 15,000 old people who perished in stifling apartments during the heat wave of 2003. Giving up a three-day weekend, though, is proving difficult. Massive strikes over Pentecost last year prompted the government to offer a compromise, allowing public-sector workers such as teachers and doctors to stay home while asking workers in private companies to come in. French newspapers mocked the plan as “hypocritical” and “dumb.”
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