Wednesday, October 13, 2010

French strikes against Government's pension reform plans

Protesters in Paris

French unions have staged their biggest strikes and demonstrations so far in opposition to the government's pension reform plans. The cabinet wants to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, and from 65 to 67 for a full state pension.
Unions put the national turnout on the third day of protests this month at 3.5m, while police said 1.2m people were involved. The unions want to continue the strike till their demands are agreed by the Government.
Transport was badly affected. Half of all flights to and from Paris Orly airport, and one in three at Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais were cancelled. Just one in three TGV high-speed trains was running.
Students and school pupils also joined the movement for the first time, with some barricading the entrances to their schools with plastic bins.

Oil industry hit
The French oil industry has been hard hit. Workers at the Fos-Lavera oil port in southern France are striking for a 15th day, forcing up diesel prices in Europe. Diesel supplies have run out on Corsica, and one union is warning of petrol shortages if the strike continues.
Some 56 petrol tankers and 29 cargo ships are stranded outside Fos-Lavera port. Eleven of France's 12 mainland refineries have been affected.
Workers at two of Total's refineries are striking for 24 hours, another two for 48 hours - both are cutting output to minimum levels and halting fuel supply.

Pension bill
The French upper house, the Senate, is currently voting on the pension reform plans, article by article.
The most contentious parts - raising the standard minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, and the age for a full state pension to 67 from 65 - have already been approved. The rest of the bill is expected to be passed by parliament in the coming weeks.
According to opinion polls, a large majority of people in France remain in favour of the strikes.

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