View Full Version : Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people

05-13-2003, 01:15 PM
Frances CONSERVATIVE government?!?!?! Conservative by who's standard....Lenin?? Ah well...another example of the resounding success of Socialism.

'Black Tuesday' Strike Paralyzes France
1 hour, 8 minutes ago Add World - Reuters to My Yahoo!

By Mark John

PARIS (Reuters) - Strikes against plans to overhaul state pensions crippled French air and rail traffic and closed schools on Tuesday as unions said more than a million workers staged the strongest street protest in years.

France's conservative government said it would not back down on reforms forcing workers to contribute more and retire later to avoid an impending funding crunch. But it sought to avoid further strikes by hinting at concessions for low-earners.

Aviation officials said four in five flights were grounded while state railway company SNCF canceled two-thirds of its mainline services as workers left their jobs to join more than 100 "Black Tuesday" demonstrations across France.

Kiosks were bare as newspaper distribution was paralyzed and the country suffered a 10 percent loss in electricity output as power workers joined protests. Three in four teachers took to the streets, resulting in school closures throughout France.

However, car firms Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen -- targeted by unions to get private sector workers to join protesters from the public sector -- reported no major impact on output as the protests there appeared patchy.

Unions said more than a million workers across France took to the streets, with 250,000 at a central rally in Paris. That matched turnout for a December 1995 rally during a wave of unrest that prompted the government then to ditch an earlier reform bid.

In both cases police estimates were substantially lower, putting the Paris turnout at 70,000 this year and 50,000 in 1995.

"We want to pass a real reform that will secure pensions in the long term," Labour Minister Francois Fillon told parliament.

"But we are ready to discuss ways of improving the reform," he added. As widely flagged, he suggested concessions might be offered to ease the impact on those retiring on a small pension and the mainly manual employees whose working life started early.


Unions hailed the day as a success but played down comparison with 1995. "Then, the protest was launched after the reform went to parliament. Now, we are still sizing each other up," said Force Ouvriere chief Marc Blondel, noting the current reform had not yet even been reviewed by the cabinet.

So far Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's popularity appears unbruised, with a poll by the Liberation daily putting his support at 51 percent -- up one percentage point from April. He insisted last week France could not be governed by the street.

With many Paris Metro subway lines shut, commuters joined long taxi queues or walked, cycled or skated to work.

"I'm an hour late," said Emna Hamila, 27. "But I support the action. The government cannot be allowed to do just anything."

Others were less sympathetic. "The strikers should be hanged," said 42-year-old Yann as he strapped on rollerblades outside Saint Lazare railway station on his way to work.

Under the plans, public workers will pay into pensions for as long as private sector employees -- for 40 years instead of the current 37-1/2 -- to earn full retirement rights.

By 2020, everyone will have to pay in for 42 years, making the current retirement age of 60 a thing of the past for most. A teacher who starts work at 24 after further education could not retire on a full pension until the age of 66.

Polls show the French, who enjoy retiring early and often benefit from a 35-hour work week, would prefer to increase pension contributions than work longer.