France paralyzed as strikes enter day 12
Protesters in France decry Paris’ pension reforms for the 12th straight day, as the country witnesses its worst strikes and civil disobedience in 15 years.
“Just because an unjust law has been passed does not mean we passively accept it. All we wanted was discussions on how to improve the law. Even that was denied us. Now we are calling for its suspension,” The Hindu quoted Francois Chereque of the CFDT trade union as saying on Sunday.
Labor unions have called for two more strikes on next Thursday and November 6th to protest against the country’s pension reforms. A similar call brought millions of people into the streets early this week.
According to the AFP, the unions say they will continue to call on their workers and other French citizens to keep protesting until the French President Nicolas Sarkozy negotiates with them.
The French Upper House passed Sarkozy’s reform bill last Friday, raising the minimum retirement age two years, to 62 and full retirement from 65 to 67.
A joint parliamentary commission is to meet next week to give its final approval to the law, considered a mere formality.
The bill has sparked protests for more than two weeks, disrupting rail and airports services. A blockade on refineries, fuel depots and ports has also left many gas stations empty, forcing 30 percent of gas stations in the French capital of Paris to shut down.
Strikes at France’s oil refineries, which began in Marseille in September, caused panic buying and nationwide shortages.
Marseille, France’s oldest city, has been crippled by the walkouts. Protesters have barricaded roads leading to Marseille Airport, forcing passengers to abandon their cars and drag suitcases to the terminal on foot to catch flights.
A fleet of huge ships, cruising offshore, are unable to dock in the southern coastal city as railway staff and dock workers join the strikes.
A recent public opinion poll by a French television network showed that nearly 70 percent of French citizens support the ongoing strikes.
The French government has said on numerous occasions that the reform is needed to save the indebted pension system from collapse.