Students march but strike losing steam

2010-10-26 13:27
Paris – French students protested on Tuesday at campuses across the country but elsewhere the government welcomed signs that the mass movement to defend the right to retire at 60 was losing steam.

Lawmakers were expected to pass President Nicolas Sarkozy's unpopular pensions reform bill on Wednesday and Finance Minister Christine Lagarde hailed what she said was "a return to reason and dialogue".

And the union leaders who led strikes and street rallies of recent months admitted that they would now have to change tactics and work to modify the final form of the reform rather than defeat it on the streets.

"It's not over," insisted Bernard Thibault, head of the CGT union.

"I repeat; the movement is not finished. It will continue. It will take other forms. The subjects it has raised are not closed, whatever happens in the coming days," he told state television.

Thibault's ally, the leader of the CFDT union Francois Chereque, agreed: "The parliamentary debate will come to an end, and we'll be looking at it from another perspective, obviously.

"We're not calling into question the legitimacy of parliament... but a law is always perfectible."

Passage bill now a formality

With the passage of the bill now a formality, the unions hope to persuade Sarkozy not to enact it into law without sitting down to negotiate amendments to soften the blow for certain kinds of workers in tough jobs.

The government has already made it clear that it will not abandon the key measure of the reform, raising the retirement age from 60 to 62, but Lagarde promised talks on issues like youth employment.

"There's no winner and no loser in this matter," she told Radio Classique. "What's very important is that people take responsibility for their actions. It's to realise that the economy needs to turn over."

Lagarde had previously warned that a series of one day national strikes had cost the French economy between $2.25bn to $4.5bn, but said on Tuesday this would not affect the growth outlook.

Student unions have protests from 14:30 with the focus being on a demonstration outside the Senate, on Paris' Left Bank near the Sorbonne university and the streets made famous by the May 1968 student revolt.

But, despite the symbolism of this backdrop – and plans by trade unions to stage another nationwide day of strikes and rallies on Thursday – there were signs elsewhere that the protest movement was wrapping up.

Government said it hoped to guarantee fuel supplies to four out of five petrol stations from Tuesday, as refineries begin to return to work, although the industry association was cautious and warned this could take longer.

Senate set to meet

In Marseille, bin men returned to work after a 14 day strike left 10 000 tonnes of rubbish in the streets of the Mediterranean port.

The Senate, which approved the pensions bill last week, was to meet to nod through the final draft after it was reconciled with the version that had earlier passed the National Assembly.

Then, on Wednesday, the National Assembly is due to formally adopt the text. The opposition is expected to ask the constitutional court to rule on its legality, but Sarkozy expects to sign it into law in mid November.

The president's supporters hope that this will put the conflict behind him and allow him to start to rebuild his shattered political standing in the run up to his expected re-election bid in 2012.

Currently, his approval rating is languishing at less than 30% in opinion polls, an all time low, but he is gambling that, even if the law is unpopular, his right-wing base will admire his determination.

Government argues that, with an ageing population and growing public deficit, France can no longer afford to retire at 60, a lower age than any comparable industrialised economy.

Sarkozy's opponents say he is making ordinary workers pay for the effects of a financial crisis not of their making, and have called for the shortfall in the social security account to be made up by taxing the rich.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    christine lagarde  |  nicolas sarkozy  |  france publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Lood leads heavy Bok assault
Hosts England crash out of RWC
Cotter takes loss on the chin
'Basic' Bok plan worked well
Traffic Alerts

Spontaneity is the order of the day. Let go and have some fun. Try not to set too many set plans and expectations and enjoy more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.