French protests continue against pension reform plan

Saturday, October 23, 2010

PARIS - Protests continued Saturday in France against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial pension reform plan approved by the Senate late Friday.

Oil refineries remained closed and national railways were forced to cut back services after employees failed to report for duty.

The French government tried forcibly to restore the flow of fuel to the country for the start of the mid-term school holiday, which is expected to see hundreds of thousands of families take to the roads in their cars.

The government requisitioned the refinery at Grandpuits near Paris and forced dozens of striking workers to return to their jobs for the second day in a row, citing national interests.

All 12 French refineries have been on strike since Oct 12. Environment Minister Jean-Lois Borloo said Friday that about one-fifth of the country’s 12,300 service stations were out of petrol.

Unions have complained against the government’s use of the police to break up strikes, with a spokesman for the CGT trade union calling it “a declaration of war against the wage-earners of this country”.

Before the pension reform becomes law, it must still be approved by a parliamentary committee and voted again by a joint session of parliament.

The press office of the Senate said that the committee would begin meeting Monday. That means that the measure could be voted into law by Wednesday.

The reform gradually raises the earliest retirement age from 60 to 62 by the year 2018. For people who have not paid enough into the state-pension fund, the retirement age moves up from 65 to 67.

Filed under: Politics

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