Massive union protest in France over pension reform

France's government wants to extend the period of pension contributions from 40 to 41 years.

Paris (26 May 2008) - Workers took to the streets of France in force last week to protest against government plans to make employees work an extra year before they can retire. Over half a million demonstrators turned out in 80 cities across France, with an estimated 70,000 in Paris alone. They are angry that the government wants to extend the period of pension contributions from 40 to 41 years.

Most of the demonstrators were from the eight of France's largest union. Bernard Thibault, the general secretary of the powerful CGT union said: "We're demonstrating to ensure the durability of our pension system and the level of pensions. We want to preserve the right to retirement at 60. That's not ensured by government measures."

The rare show of unity among France major unions is sure to pose a problem for the centre-right government of President Sarkozy - elected a year ago with promises of sweeping economic reform. The strike will put renewed pressure on the president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to amend his pension reform plans as his approval ratings reach an all-time low a year after his election.

The government says rising life-expectancy and weak public finances mean workers must make extra pension contributions, and points to similar increases in pensionable age elsewhere in Europe.

 

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