Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns of further sanctions against Russia

    Read more

  • Experimental Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • IMF stands behind Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Chelsea’s Torres set for AC Milan switch

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

  • First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal

    Read more

  • Obama has 'no strategy yet' on potential Syria strikes

    Read more

  • Netflix to woo French with ‘House of Cards’ set in Marseille

    Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • Syrian refugees surpass 3 million, UN says

    Read more

  • West backs Ukrainian claims of Russian incursion

    Read more

  • Libyan PM resigns as Islamists set up rival administration

    Read more

  • UN says 43 peacekeepers captured in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

    Read more

  • Peru seizes record 6.5 tonnes of Europe-bound cocaine

    Read more

France

Workers vote to end pension strikes at oil refineries

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-10-30

Workers at all 12 of France's oil refineries have voted to end a two-week strike over pension reform that provoked fuel shortages across the country.

REUTERS - Workers at France’s biggest oil port broke a month-long strike on Friday, and refinery workers also ended walkouts, ending a bitter showdown with President Nicolas Sarkozy over his flagship pension reform.

 

The first of several dozen oil tankers moored off the southern port of Marseille could start offloading from Friday evening, local CGT union official Pascal Galeote said after workers at the Fos-Lavera terminal voted for an end to action that had put a stranglehold on refineries.

The strikes, which drained petrol pumps and forced up fuel imports, were the culmination of months of protests against Sarkozy’s plan to lift the retirement age and a major test for the president.

Stuck with dismal popularity ratings 18 months before a presidential election, Sarkozy looks stronger for having stared down France’s influential trade unions with a law he says will stem a gaping pension deficit.

Unions still fiercely oppose the law, however, and a clause in the text offering a fuller pension review in 2013 means the issue may yet come back to haunt Sarkozy.

“All this leaves marks, burns even,” a government minister told Reuters this week, on condition of anonymity.

The Fos-Lavera strike, which began over local issues but overlapped with the wider anti-pension protests, ended a day after low turnout at street marches showed enthusiasm waning.

Marseille port authorities said it would take about a month to clear the backlog of oil tankers.

French service stations should be back to normal by the middle of next week, Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said.

“Today a number of elements made it possible to propose that workers go back to work,” Galeote told reporters.

The industrial action failed to stop parliament passing the law this week to gradually raise the minimum and full retirement ages by two years to 62 and 67. The legislation now just needs Constitutional Court approval.

Reshuffle speculation

Sarkozy wants to turn the page after a period that tarnished the image he is trying to present of a modern France that can tackle swollen deficits. He has a busy calendar next week, attending a Franco-British summit in London on Tuesday then hosting a three-day state visit by China’s President Hu Jintao.

Sometimes dubbed the “hyper-president” for his energetic style, Sarkozy kept a low profile as strikes began winding down.

Rather than claim victory he has focused on his meeting with Hu and a November G20 summit in Seoul when France will take over the presidency of the economic leadership forum.

“Some concerns, often legitimate, have been expressed—I have listened to them, I have thought about them and at the appropriate time, I will take initiatives to respond to them,” Sarkozy told a news conference in Brussels for an EU summit.

Sarkozy’s pension reform has sparked some of the most sustained protests in Europe against deficit-cutting measures.

While polls still show most people back the movement, Force Ouvriere union leader Jean-Claude Mailly acknowledged there were signs of “a little fatigue”.

His victory over the unions gives Sarkozy some breathing time as he looks to reshuffle his cabinet next month with an eye on wooing centrist and far-right voters whose support he will need in 2012.

But unions are already seizing on a clause in the reform opening up the possibility of a comprehensive pension review in 2013 meaning the issue could still come back to bite Sarkozy.

“The pension problem does not end with the reform being voted. It’s written in the text that the system will be reviewed again in 2013,” CFDT union head Francois Chereque said in an interview with Le Parisien.

Unions meet on Nov. 4 to decide whether to schedule further action beyond street marches set for Nov. 6, while their representatives at Air France on Friday called for a strike on Nov. 4. Turnout at demonstrations on Thursday was down by around half from earlier in the month.

French media are largely moving on from the pension showdown and are engrossed in speculation about the cabinet reshuffle.

 

Date created : 2010-10-29

  • FRANCE

    Strikes and protests follow adoption of pension reform

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    France's interior minister says oil supplies returning to 'normal'

    Read more

COMMENT(S)