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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Millions of French workers on strike for pensions

French trade union members walk past posters showing French Labour minister Eric Woerth and Liliane Bettencourt, France's richest woman and the heiress of L'Oreal empire, reading 'There's no money left for retirement, let's redistribute wealth' and another of Sarkozy reading 'OUT'



Millions of French workers joined strikes and marches on Tuesday against plans to savage their pensions.

The protests were bigger than those over the same issue in June, which were themselves larger than the ones in May.

Right wing president Nicolas Sarkozy has announced a rise in the minimum retirement age to 62. And to get a full state pension workers will have to stay in employment until they are 67.

Workers’ contributions are also rising.

France’s eight union federations sent out a united call to strike this time—and workers responded magnificently.

Strikes hit schools, the post, transport, the civil service, hospitals and many other public services.

And the strike also involved many private sector workers such as at France Telecom.

In large parts of the country shops such as Auchan, Carrefour, Galeries Lafayette, Monoprix, Conforama, Castorama and FNAC closed or were hit hard.

Evening newspapers Le Monde and Les Echos were not expected to come out on Tuesday, and the rest of the national press not to appear on Wednesday.

There were more than 150 demonstrations on the day- early successes included up to 70,000 in Bordeaux, 48,000 in Rennes, 25,000 in Lyon and 40,000 in Caen.

In smaller towns and cities there were also impressive turnouts, such as 13,000 in La Rochelle.

According to a poll last weekend, 70 percent of the French population supported the day of strikes and protests—with the figure rising to 84 percent among 18 to 24 year olds.

Large sections of workers are angry at Sarkozy’s government of the rich, which is delivering for the bosses while trying to make workers pay for the crisis.

On Monday around a third of secondary school teachers struck against 7,000 job cuts in education.

The Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste said, “Today is a success, but on its own will not be sufficient to defeat the government.

“That goal is possible through a combination of mobilising large and growing protests, and the weakness of the right and Sarkozy.

“Today must be the first date in an action plan that leads to a widespread and long strike that paralyses the economy.

“The whole population needs to mobilise—workers, communities, young people. It’s possible to win.”

Speaking to a huge crowd before the Paris demonstration moved off, Marcel Grignard from the CFDT federation called for another day of action “on 18 or 19 September or at the start of October”.

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