French workers on strike as Sarkozy assumes Thatcherite posture on pension eligibility

May 23rd, 2008 - 12:55 pm ICT by admin  

London, May 23 (ANI): French President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to make people work a year longer to qualify for a full pension, and this has led tens of thousands of workers to stage nationwide protests. Five of the largest unions in France have joined forces to fight a government proposal obliging employees to work 41 years before retiring, against 40 years at present. They are also angry at plans to cut the numbers of public sector workers.
According to The Telegraph, half the country’s trains are not running, but the action has had less of an impact on public transport than was expected because of a new rule on securing a minimum service during strikes.
Paris and Lyon were barely affected and there were no delays on international routes.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said there is no alternative but to increase the number of working years in line with rising life expectancy.
A Le Figaro poll shows that almost six out of ten French are opposed to the protests. It is the latest sign that, despite his current unpopularity, Sarkozy appears to be winning the ideological battle for his reforms.
In a boisterous mood, according to Le Figaro, the president predicted to one adviser that “one day they’ll say I made as many reforms as Margaret Thatcher!”
His method of constant dialogue with the unions, however, is very different to that of the former British prime minister.
Many analysts say the pension plan does not go far enough.
“In reality, the measures are insufficient; the French known it, the unions know it,” wrote the financial daily Les Echos, likening the protests to “a gallant last stand”.
Unions, meanwhile, hoped that yesterday’s mass demonstrations and a series of separate protests would “coagulate” into a wider movement and force an about turn over pensions and other planned reforms. (ANI)

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