French government scents victory over protest strikers

French government scents victory over protest strikers

The French government today claimed they were winning the battle against strikers causing countrywide disruption with protests against pension reforms.

Finance minister Christine Lagarde declared the strikes had reached “a turning point” as rubbish collectors began tackling Marseille’s huge backlog of trash and a few French oil workers halted their action.

Ms Lagarde, who has estimated losses from the strikes at up to €400m a day, said that the momentum has shifted.

“What’s very important is taking responsibility – it’s realising that the economy needs to function,” she said.

The protests over government plans to change the retirement age from 60 to 62 have disrupted French life and the country’s economy for weeks, cancelling trains, causing school closures and shutting down one filling station in four.

University students, pledging to keep the momentum going, organised demonstrations in 20 French cities today. Unions have called for another nationwide day of protests on Thursday – but by then, the retirement reform will have passed its final hurdles in France’s parliament.

French unions see retirement at 60 as a cherished social benefit. But President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative government says raising the retirement age is the only way to save the money-losing pension system because French people are living longer.

Polls have shown a majority of French people sympathise with strikers, although their attitudes are not clear-cut. The IFOP polling agency asked if protesters have the right to block companies, roads and fuel depots, and about 59% of respondents said no.

In Marseille, binmen faced 9,000 tons of rubbish that have piled up in the streets over the last two weeks. The FO union voted yesterday to end the protest out of concerns over “hygiene and safety.”

Authorities said it would take up to five days before France’s second-largest city starts looking, and smelling, like itself.

Nine oil refineries are still blocked by strikers, but workers at France’s three other plants voted to return to the job. It is expected to take a few days for them to fully resume operations.

Workers who remained on strike at the strategic Grandpuits refinery near Paris said the three plants resuming operations is still not enough to prevent fuel shortages. Scores of oil tankers remained anchored outside Marseille, still unable to unload.

More on this topic

French air traffic controller strike causing flight disruptions for Aer Lingus passengers this weekendFrench air traffic controller strike causing flight disruptions for Aer Lingus passengers this weekend

Tourists and commuters forced to change plans as French rail strike enters second dayTourists and commuters forced to change plans as French rail strike enters second day

Water cannon used on protesters at Macron protest rally Water cannon used on protesters at Macron protest rally

France passes later retirement rules into lawFrance passes later retirement rules into law

More in this Section

Police fire tear gas at protesters in BeirutPolice fire tear gas at protesters in Beirut

Iran to send black box flight recorders from downed jet to UkraineIran to send black box flight recorders from downed jet to Ukraine

Harry Dunn: UK police chief demands urgent meeting with US base commanderHarry Dunn: UK police chief demands urgent meeting with US base commander

Sadiq Khan: Nothing keeps me up at night more than knife crimeSadiq Khan: Nothing keeps me up at night more than knife crime


Lifestyle

The actor knows how to impress when it comes to high profile events.6 times Katie Holmes wowed on the red carpet

Glamour, fun and feathers all feature in this year’s hottest looks – but first and foremost, individual style rules.10 on-trend ways to transform your home in 2020

Abi Jackson shares the enduring appeal of Pooh Bear’s wisdom on Winnie-the-Pooh Day – author A.A. Milne’s birthday.Winnie-the-Pooh Day: The wellbeing lessons we can learn from Pooh Bear

We asked three experts for the low-down on shampooing frequency.How often should you really wash your hair?

More From The Irish Examiner