Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

WEB NEWS

France's top consumer group sues Internet giants

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users pay tribute to South Korea ferry victims

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria's Presidential polls

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014 (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over "shoe-shine scandal"

Read more

#THE 51%

Breaking stereotypes

Read more

#TECH 24

Galaxy S5 v. HTC One (M8): Which is the right one for you?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

New PM Manuel Valls outlines priorities

Read more

  • Why Syria’s cash-strapped jihadists let hostages go

    Read more

  • Video: Ukraine separatist crisis overshadows Easter celebrations

    Read more

  • The Great War's unsung four-legged heroes

    Read more

  • Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken South Korean ferry

    Read more

  • Ukraine rebels call for Russian troops after deadly clash

    Read more

  • UK’s Hamilton cruises to victory at Chinese Grand Prix

    Read more

  • Freed French journalists arrive home after Syria ordeal

    Read more

  • Syria’s Assad visits recaptured Christian town at Easter

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Militants kill Algerian soldiers in deadly ambush

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more

  • VIDEO: Anti-Semitic leaflets in Eastern Ukraine condemned

    Read more

  • Bouteflika, the ghost president

    Read more

  • Does Valls’ upcoming Vatican trip violate French secularism?

    Read more

  • Ukraine separatists say ‘not bound’ by Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • Obama signs bill to block controversial Iran diplomat from UN post

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

France

Violent protests have ‘weakened unions’ in retirement battle

©

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2010-10-26

As the French government gets closer to signing a law that will raise the retirement age in France from 60 to 62, a leading French labour expert says violent clashes between youths and police have undermined the unions’ position.

French unions have been forced onto the back foot after clashes between a small hard core of violent protesters and police, according to a leading French labour expert.

The violence this week, amid huge country-wide strikes, blockades and demonstrations, has weakened France's powerful labour organisations and played directly into the hands of the government, according to Bernard Vivier, director of France’s Higher Institute of Labour (a leading French thinktank).

“The unions are embarrassed by this violence, which is led by anarchist elements of the unions who want to derail any attempts to negotiate with the government,” he told FRANCE 24.

“It has put the brakes on the unions’ momentum, while they themselves recognise that reforms to the pension system are needed,” he added. “These violent protesters want to do anything possible to stop negotiations, and their actions have shot the protest movement in the foot.”

Official spokespeople from France’s major unions were unavailable for comment when this article was published.

Mostly peaceful

Footage and pictures of hooded youths and baton-wielding riot police have dominated international headlines.

However, Tuesday's protests, in which between one million people (according to police) and 3.5 million (according to unions) took to the streets on Tuesday, were largely peaceful.

Violence erupted on the fringes of some marches, notably in Lyon, where hundreds of masked rioters torched cars, smashed store windows and destroyed bus shelters.

In nine days of demonstrations and strikes, some 1,500 alleged rioters have been arrested, 428 after Tuesday’s clashes, according to the interior ministry.

Sporadic protests continued on Wednesday, with groups blocking access to regional airports at Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes and Clermont Ferrand.

The demonstrations, organised by France’s powerful trades unions, come as the French government was finalising a law to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

The law, which will likely be signed off by France’s upper house of parliament, the Senate, this week, would also raise the retirement threshold for a full pension from 65 to 67.

The protests are backed by the majority of French voters who want French President Nicolas Sarkozy to retreat on what was one of the primary planks of his 2007 presidential election campaign – which he won with broad public backing.

Government action

On Tuesday, Sarkozy sent in paramilitary police to clear blockades at France's fuel depots that this week caused a wave of panic-buying and shut down one in three petrol stations across the country.

"If this disorder is not ended quickly, the attempt to paralyse the country could have consequences for jobs by disrupting the normal functioning of the economy," Sarkozy told a cabinet meeting in remarks released by his office, adding his determination to push the pension reform through.

Three depots were peacefully reopened overnight, but protestors have blockaded several more.

"We will continue to unblock these depots as much as necessary," Hortefeux said. "We will not let the country be blockaded and we will not let the thugs go unpunished," he added, referring to those arrested in street riots.

A third day of violence broke out on Wednesday morning in Lyon and the Paris suburb of Nanterre, both the scenes of earlier clashes, where a handful of cars were set alight.

The government is hoping that the protests will gradually fizzle out, as a 10-day half-term holiday begins and schools, which have been the focus of much of the violence, shut their doors.
 

Date created : 2010-10-20

  • FRANCE

    Burning and looting – pension protests in the foreign press

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)