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French pension protests gain momentum

FRANCE – An estimated 500,000 people demonstrated in the streets of France yesterday to protest against the government’s planned reform of the state pension system.

It was the second demonstration this year on pensions, and it was clear that momentum had grown with around one third more citizens turning out to protest.

Following the demonstrations, prime minister Jean Pierre Raffarin spoke on French national television. He is reported as saying the government would push ahead with the reform as there was a funding crisis, and reiterated that he personally would see the reform passed before the summer.

Raffarin is also reported as saying yesterday that the pension systems for public and private sector workers “would converge…as far as the duration of contribution is concerned.”

For public sector workers, the government has proposed that length of contribution should be raised from 37.5 years to 40 years in order to qualify for a full pension, but the government has not heeded union requests to raise the duration for the private sector as well.

Next week the government is set to present the first proposals of reform to the social partners, after which there will be four days of consultation with the unions.

It is rumoured that a further demonstration will be organised for May 1 fronted by all seven of France’s workers’ unions. Only four of the seven primary French unions were involved in yesterday’s demonstration. The CFDT, CFE-CGC and the CFTC refused to participate saying that the consultation period between the government and unions had not finished.



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