Sarkozy, labor unions face showdown over pension reform

08:27, September 08, 2010      

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People protest against the retirement reform in Paris, France, Sept. 7, 2010. French labor unions leading a nationwide strike against retirement reform hailed on Tuesday the success of the largest demonstration aimed at forcing the government to bow to the streets' call. About 2.5 million people participated in the strike across the country. (Xinhua/Ying Qiang)


French labor unions leading a nationwide strike against retirement reform hailed on Tuesday the success of the largest demonstration aimed at forcing the government to bow to the streets' call.

However, President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted on pressing ahead the plan of reform and raising French people's minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, in a bid to create wealth needed to finance pensions and alleviate public spending.

About 2.5 million people participated in the strike across the country. Some 270,000 citizens took to Paris streets to express their refusal of the pension reform plan, according to labor unions' figures, while Paris police said only 80,000 people took part in the demonstration.

"The demonstration was better than expected. It's the largest strike in many years and showed that government's arguments are no longer credible," said Bernard Thibault, leader of CGT, a major trade union.

"The government can not act as if nothing had happened today," he added in remarks to the BFM TV channel, vowing to stage further strikes if their calls wouldn't be heard.

The French head of state has asked deputies of the ruling UMP party to remain firm on raising the retirement age, while his executive officials are presenting the bill on the National Assembly, the lower house of French parliament, which would start examining the text of the plan on Tuesday night.

The pension reform plan includes four main guidelines: to prolong the activity time in a progressive and fair way; narrow down differences between various retirement schemes in different sectors; ameliorate the overall retirement system; and reinforce the French people's understanding of the retirement scales.

"By offering 62 years, the government has made a reasonable choice and also an essential choice for financing French pensions, " Prime Minister Francois Fillon told the congress.

According to the government, the raise of retirement age will help insurance fund to generate 28 billion euros (35.62 billion U. S. dollars) to pay pensions.

To Eric Woerth, the Labor Minister who outlined the plan of retirement reform, the project is a sign of "courage and reason."

"It is a fundamental reform because we not only want to restore balance to our pensions from 2018, we also want to restore French confidence in this essential element of our social pact," he was quoted as saying by local media.

The National Assembly will have a formal vote on Sept. 15 on the entire text of the pension reform plan, which will then be examined by the Senate at the beginning of October.


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(Editor:张茜)

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http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/90853/7133110.pdf