French Unions Strike, March as Sarkozy Pension Debate Starts

September 9, 2010

French unions held strikes nationwide and hundreds of thousands demonstrated as lawmakers began debating President Nicolas Sarkozy's bill to raise the retirement age.

  • Protest marches were held in 137 cities.
  • About 80,000 people marched against the government's proposals in Paris, the police said, while the CGT union said 270,000 were in the protest.
  • The march in Marseille, France's second largest city, had 200,000 people according to the unions and 27,000 according to the police.
  • In Lyon, the third largest, the two estimates were 35,000 and 16,000, according to Agence France-Presse.

Sarkozy has vowed not to compromise on the key plank of his pension proposals, which would lift the retirement age to 62 from 60.

  • Under the bill parliament is considering, the age at which full benefits can be tapped will rise to 67 from 65.
  • The government has said it is willing to negotiate over allowing earlier retirement for some hardship jobs and for people who began their careers as teenagers.
  • The state pension fund will lose 10.7 billion euros ($13.6 billion) this year, with the shortfall reaching 50 billion euros in 2020 without a change in policy, according to the Budget Ministry.

France's legal retirement age has been 60 since Socialist President Francois Mitterrand cut it from 65 after his 1981 election.

Source: "French Unions Strike, March as Sarkozy Pension Debate Starts," San Francisco Chronicle, September 6, 2010.

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