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French retirement reform passes; Fillon kept as PM; strikes for Nov. 23

November 14th, 2010 No comments

I write for Bonjour Paris and this week have this article about the French retirement reform passing. Be sure to check out Bonjour Paris.

Excerpts from my article below:

After two months that saw many days of strike action (sometimes marred by violence) by unions, schools and others opposed to the French government’s retirement reform, it has become law. President Nicolas Sarkozy had given ground on certain areas, such as easing pension requirements for working mothers and those who work in arduous, labor-intensive jobs.

But he did not give in to union demands to keep the retirement age at 60 and the age for full pension at 65, instead remaining determined to raise these to 62 and 67, respectively. Business newspapers give an in-depth look into the details of the pension law (in French).

In the end he succeeded, despite strike action, because of many factors including a special parliamentary procedure that did not allow for debate on each amendment and thus facilitated voting on the proposed bill in the Sénat and Assemblée Nationale. Another reason is that strikes in France do not have the power they used to, with a legal minimum service in schools and in transportation making life less difficult for everyday people. The Paris metro operated during the heat of the strike.

He succeeded in this reform where past French presidents attempting it had failed because of giving in to strike pressure. But what has this done for his popularity and chances of being re-elected in 2012?

The BBC reports that it has certainly undermined his approval ratings.

In the midst of this lack of popularity, Sarkozy is planning a TV address on Nov. 18 to announce a cabinet reshuffling, with Prime Minister François Fillon being kept in place (having been reappointed to the position today after resigning from it only yesterday) but other ministers to be changed, a traditional move by the presidency to regain popularity. But the unions are still calling for strike action Nov. 23. Although aware that they will likely accomplish nothing against what is already law, they are already preparing action on other measures to keep momentum going, like work insurance, complementary pensions, youth unemployment problems, etc.

For now, Sarkozy has won the battle. But will he win the war? We’ll have to see. The definitive answer will come in 2012.

French reform likely to pass despite threat of ongoing strikes

September 24th, 2010 No comments

In the wake of the second round of strikes on Sep. 23 after Sep. 7, unions are calling for continued protest against French government plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, and 65 to 67 for full pension access, among other details in a large, long-overdue reform of the retirement and pension system.

Labor Minister Eric Woerth said that the strike movement was not as big on Sep. 23 and was in effect waning. Of course there was much divergence on analysis of participation, between 1 and 3 million protesting (from police estimates to union estimates). This is often the case.

As the reform text will most likely be passed in the Senate Oct. 5, after having already been approved by the Assemblée Nationale, most French people realize that these protests will not change the government’s core policy proposals. In a Figaro poll, nearly 85% of people out of more than 31,000 said that the “retirement reform would come to fruition despite the strikes and protests”.

But the left is not backing down and Socialist Party head and Lille mayor Martine Aubry has vowed that if the Socialists win the presidency in 2012, they will bring retirement back to 60. For now, the unions are speaking about October strikes possibly affecting weekend traffic. They do not want to give up just yet.

We’ll see how this plays out. In the event of continued strikes, stay tuned to American Expat in France.

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