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Unions call for new strikes on Sept. 23 over pension reform

Video by Mairead DUNDAS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-09-08

French unions have called for a further day of strikes on Sept. 23 after President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday's mass protests would not derail plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.


French unions have called for a fresh day of strikes and protests on September 23 to challenge government plans to overhaul the pension system and raise the minimum retirement age to 62.
Six major unions issued a joint statement saying they were not satisfied by the minor modifications offered by  the president on Wednesday, saying they wanted to make Sept. 23 "a major day of strikes and demonstrations" to fight the reforms.
One of Sarkozy’s few concessions to union demands involved offering earlier retirement to people who started working before the age of 18 or who faced certain physically-demanding jobs.
Sarkozy said he was “attentive to the worries that were expressed” by protesters, who turned out in 220 French cities Tuesday. But, he added, "there is no question of going back on this. Working a little longer is the most reasonable path."
‘Out of the question to give up’
In a statement following a cabinet meeting Wednesday, Sarkozy said it was “out of the question” to give up on the plan to raise the retirement age.
The reform is “a lasting and just response that will allow us to save our pension system,” government spokesman Luc Chatel told reporters shortly after the cabinet meeting.
With baby boomers reaching retirement age and life expectancy on the rise, the government insists an increase in the pension age is unavoidable. It claims that by raising the threshold the vastly expensive pension system will break even by 2018.
But opposition Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry urged Sarkozy to “restart from zero” the effort to reform pensions.
“In a democracy, when the people are on the streets, when they are more than two million and many more that support them, we need to listen,” she said.
Socialist Party spokesperson Benoit Hamon said concessions announced by Sarkozy were "tiny improvements" that would do little to appease the unhappy public.
Tuesday's street protests drew over a million people nationwide in what was seen as a high-stakes showdown between the country’s largest labour unions and Sarkozy's administration.
The strikes were planned to coincide with Labour Minister Eric Woerth’s presentation of proposed pension reforms to parliament on Tuesday.
Woerth has been embroiled for months in the ongoing L’Oreal heiress scandal, one of a number of controversies that have dragged Sarkozy’s approval rating down to record lows.
Sarkozy, however, remains undeterred by his low poll ratings and the challenge from the unions, stating repeatedly that he will do what it takes to get the unpopular legislation passed. 


Date created : 2010-09-08


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