French unions set date for pensions strike

FRANCE – France’s six biggest unions have named Tuesday May 13 as the day on which they will strike in protest against the government’s proposed pensions reforms.

The announcement follows talks over the last week between the unions and the French government regarding proposed plans to reform the pension system for both public and private sector workers.

Proposals to increase the length of contributions for public sector workers from 37.5 years to 40 years to obtain full pension rights in line with private sector contributions have outraged some unions. After 2008 the length of contributions for both sectors will be considered for further increase according to government proposals.

The unions disagree that those working now are having to pay for the retired, while facing a longer working life themselves, arguing that it is only a short-term solution that is punishing younger workers.

Jacky Dintinger of the CFTC, the first Christian union, says that the government should instead be increasing employment opportunities and encouraging larger families. The current strain on France’s state pension system is being made worse as the post-war baby-boomers start to retire.

According to a survey by Ipsos published in the French daily Le Figaro today, 43% of the French population surveyed considered an increase in the length of contributions to be the “least acceptable solution” to the pensions problem. Thirty-one percent considered a reduction in pensions to be unacceptable, and 20% were most against an increase in contributions.

The CGT, CFDT, FO, CFTC, Unsa and FSU have all signed an agreement to make May 13 a day of action, strikes and protests. The union for executives, the CFE-CGC, has said it will not be taking part.

Tonight, labour minister, Francois Fillon will have “100 minutes to convince the nation” on the pensions reforms on television channel France 2.

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