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Tuesday, October 12, 2010 11:21 AM

French Unions On Strike Against Pension Reform, Disrupt Rail, Air Traffic

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The retirement age in France is 60. Given demographics and increasing longevity, this is not sustainable. None of that matters to people on the take. Moreover, and unlike Greece, polls shows most support the striking workers.

Please consider French Workers Strike Against Sarkozy Pension Plan

French workers are demonstrating today for the fourth time in five weeks in nationwide marches, disrupting rail and air traffic as labor unions threaten open- ended strikes to press President Nicolas Sarkozy to scrap his pension-system overhaul.

Railway and Paris subway workers and as well as teachers, air-traffic controllers and port and refinery employees walked out to protest plans to raise the retirement age to 62 from 60 and lift the age for a full pension to 67 from 65. Unions, which warn they may renew the strike every 24 hours unless the government backs down, said 244 marches will take place across France today in cities including Toulouse, Marseille and Nantes.

Three rallies since Sept. 7 that brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets failed to derail Sarkozy’s retirement proposals. The government says the changes are needed to help France cope with an aging population and help balance the pension system’s budget by 2018. Labor unions called for more demonstrations on Oct. 16.

“We need this reform to save our system,” [said Luc Chatel, the government spokesman]

A survey in yesterday’s Le Parisien newspaper showed 69 percent of the respondents support today’s protest and 61 percent said they favor an open-ended strike. The Paris-based pollster CSA called 1,011 adults on Oct. 6-7 and gave no margin of error.

France’s aviation authority advised carriers to cut half of their flights to and from Paris Orly airport and a third to and from Roissy Charles de Gaulle because of the air-traffic controllers’ strike. The Lyon airport canceled 21 percent of its flights it said on its web site.

Air France-KLM Group said the protest won’t affect its long-haul flights, while some European and domestic flights will be canceled or delayed. Ryanair Holdings Plc said it’s canceling 250 French flights today.

The RER B commuter train, which connects Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, will face the most disruption, with no trains running inside Paris, forcing travelers to take other transportation.

Workers at refineries and gas and electricity plants joined the strike. Employees at the oil terminal at the port of Marseille, who have been on strike for the past 15 days because of the government’s plan to revamp the ports system, joined in.
The correct government response to this mess is to do what Reagan did to the PATCO workers, fire all the public union employees on strike and terminate their benefits.

Moreover, the French government should take this opportunity handed to them on a silver platter and go one step further to make a much needed change and dissolve all public unions. The same should happen in the US.

This would end the nonsense quickly and effectively. As in the US, there would be lines miles long to take those jobs at much lower wage and benefit levels.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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