In their latest attempt to berate Nicolas Sarkozy’s government over pension reform, French unions called on public and private sector workers to take to the streets at the weekend, when less people are restricted by work constraints.
AP - France's labor unions were trying to turn up the pressure on President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservatives with nationwide street protests Saturday against a plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 - their third day of demonstrations in a month.
Unions attempted a new tactic, holding the protest on a Saturday instead of a weekday, in hopes of drawing families, students and private-sectorworkers who tend not to show up during the workweek.
Nearly 300 demonstrations were planned throughout France on Saturday, the CGT union said. Two protests in September each drew at least a million people around the country, according to the government, though unions gave much ,higher figures, up to 3 million.
France _ one of many indebted European countries trying to scale back spending - says its money-losing pension system will collapse without reform. It casts the plan as the only responsible course of action and insists that people need to work longer because they are living longer.
French unions, however, see the right to retire at 60 as a firmly entrenched right, and they deny the government's claim that support for their movement is waning.
"Popular support is bigger and bigger, which shows that the government must seize its last chance to offer a real, just reform at last,'' the head of the CFDT union, Francois Chereque, told i-tele television.
Tens of thousands of protesters in Paris marched in a sea of union flags toward the site of the former Bastille prison, one of the world's most famous revolutionary sites. Parade floats with huge union balloons lined the streets.
The two other protests in September were accompanied by broad strikes that hobbled train and commuter traffic, unlike Saturday, when there were few disruptions to public services.
Dockers have been blocking the port in the southern city of Marseille, however, and 39 ships carrying oil, chemicals and other products were out to sea, awaiting entry.
France is among many European governments looking to cut costs and chip away at some cherished but costly benefits that underpin the good life on the continent. A euros 110 billion ($140 billion) bailout for Greece has added to thesense of urgency this year.
Conservative French lawmakers have already pushed the pension reform through its first legislative hurdle: The National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, has adopted the bill.
The Senate takes the measure up Tuesday, and protesters are planning to gather there too as debate gets under way.
The reform's aim is make the money-draining pension system break even by 2018.
Though the minimum retirement age would be 62, people would have to wait until age 67 if they want full pension benefits, up from age 65 today. Sarkozy's government says France's retirement age will still be lower than in comparable countries.
Germany is set to raise its retirement age over the coming years from 65 to 67 to offset a shrinking, aging population, and the United States is gradually doing the same.
The government has expressed willingness to alter some parts of the final
language of the bill, but union leaders say their offers aren't enough.
Date created : 2010-10-02