New strikes planned in French pension age protest

France will face two new rounds of nationwide protests next month against the government’s plans to raise the retirement age, union leaders said today.

The announcement came a day after strikes brought at least a million protesters on to the streets.

Representatives of six major unions meeting in the Paris suburb of Montreuil said another round of protests will be held on Saturday October 2 followed by a strike and demonstrations on Tuesday October 12.

The announcement coincided with a pledge by prime minister Francois Fillon to stand firm on the contested measures, despite the protests and polls suggesting a majority of French people support the strikers. The reform includes raising the retirement age from 60 to 62.

Thursday’s strikes – the second round this month – crippled trains, planes and schools throughout France. More than 200 demonstrations were held in cities and towns throughout the country, attracting a million participants, according to police estimates, or as many as three million, according to organisers.

Speaking to members of the governing UMP party in the Atlantic coastal city of Biarritz, Mr Fillon insisted the reform is necessary to save the country’s money-losing retirement system.

He vowed not to give in to union demands to scrap the reform, saying “governing means knowing how to say no”.

The reform is seen as a key test for conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has struggled to convince his country of the need for cost-cutting.

The pension reform bill passed a vote in the lower house of parliament this week and is soon to be debated in the senate.

Even if it is raised to 62, the retirement age in France would still be one of the lowest in Europe.

Neighbouring Germany has decided to bump the retirement age from 65 to 67. The US Social Security federal pension system is also gradually raising its retirement age to 67.

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