French Workers Vow to Keep Protesting Retirement Reform

23 October 2010
French Workers Vow to Keep Protesting Retirement Reform
Photo: AP
Striking employees block the main entrance of the Donges refinery, western France, Saturday Oct. 23, 2010. Travelers in France are facing another day of spotty train service and gas shortages as strikes against the government's pension reform enter their twelfth straight day.

Strikes continue in France and the country is bracing for another day of demonstrations next Thursday over a new retirement reform bill that the country's Senate passed on Friday. President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to sign the bill into law soon.

A hundred or so demonstrators waving red flags and many wearing yellow stickers calling for a retirement at sixty gathered in Paris this weekend. They oppose the government's plan to raise the minimum retirement age two tears, to 62 and full retirement from 65 to 67.

The bill has sparked protests for more than two weeks from transport strike that has disrupted rail services and airports, and a blockade on refineries, fuel depots and ports that has left many gas stations empty. The French government says the reforms are necessary because of a large fiscal deficit.

These demonstrators are collecting money for the strikers to continue. Patrice Bessac a spokesman for the French Comminist party says it does not matter that the senate just passed the bill. "The law is passed but not the movement," he said.

Labor unions have called for a nationwide day of action on Thursday. A similar call brought more than a million people into the streets early this week. Students are expected to hold demonstrations as well, but it is Thursday when protestors hope to make a statement.

"I think the demonstration Thursday is going to be enormous", said one.

The government has used emergency legislation to push the bill through and President Sarkozy has been adamant he will not back down.

Bessac says that is not a good strategy for the President. "Mr Sarozy has just one choice to take back his law and to hear the majority of the French people who demonstrate against this law, so Mr Sarkozy, hear your people, hear the French people, they don't want your law, you have to take back," he said.

The unions promise actions next Thursday and November 6th and say they will continue to call on their workers and other French citizens to keep protesting until the President negotiates with them.