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France

French unions call for more protests over pension reform

Video by Nicholas RUSHWORTH

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-09-24

French trade unions have called for more demonstrations, on October 2 and October 12, in protest against a pension reform that would raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.

The day after at least a million people participated in a national strike, French trade unions have called for more demonstrations, on October 2 and October 12, in protest against the government’s pension reform plan that would raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.
 
While police figures said a million people took to the streets across the country on Thursday, trade unions put the figure at three million, leading Francois Chereque, general secretary of France's main union, the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), to declare their efforts a success. Millions of people have taken to the streets for two nationwide strikes in the past three weeks.
 
The protests have continued even though the bill has already been passed by the lower house of parliament and will be examined from October 5 by the upper house, where it is widely expected to pass.
 
For the government, though, Thursday’s strike suggested that the movement was slowing down. The spokesman of the French government, Luc Chatel, noted that the percentage of public sector employees who joined the Sept. 7 strike was 26 percent, while Thursday’s strike attracted only 21 percent.
 
Unions try to refine strategy
 
The unions are hoping that the decision to schedule demonstrations over a weekend (October 2 is a Saturday) will allow them to attract a wider participation.
 
Meanwhile, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), another major French trade union confederation, has warned that the unions’ position could become more radical. “If the government maintains its intransigence, it is increasingly clear that we will be in full-on, direct opposition,” said CGT Secretary General Bernard Thibault.
 

A French strike explainer

A strike, which is protected in France by the Constitution of 1946, is a collective and planned interruption of work by employees seeking to express a professional grievance.

Private sphere

Every employee can go on strike. However, the employer can deduct money from the employee's monthly salary in accordance with the duration of the strike.

Public sphere

1/30th of the employee's monthly salary is deducted for every strike, even if the strike lasts less than one day, eg, even if a worker strikes for just two hours they will loose a day's salary. For hospital workers and employees of regional administrative structures, deductions are strictly proportional to the length of the strike

Employees in certain professions do not have the right to go on strike (police, anti-riot forces, military personnel). Certain professions must provide a minimum service even during strikes (hospital workers, air transport employees).

In adopting a particularly confrontational tone, the CGT seems to be nodding at more radical unions, such as Force Ouvrière, or Workers' Force. Workers’ Force has been trying to convince the other trade unions that the government will not budge unless the movement of strikes and demonstrations is massive and uncompromising.
 
While the government has made some concessions for certain workers, it has nevertheless vowed to push ahead with its reform plan.
 
Speaking at a meeting of his UMP party in the south-western town of Biarritz, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said, "Governing means listening to everyone. Governing means respecting everyone. But governing France also sometimes means being able to say 'no'."

 

Date created : 2010-09-24

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