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France downs tools over raising retirement age

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France downs tools over raising retirement age


French trade unions are flexing their muscles with widespread strikes to protest against government plans to make people work longer before they can retire.

Rail services were cut in half by the action. Schools, hospitals and air traffic were also being hit.

Union leaders aim to put two-million people on the streets in a day of rallies all over France.

It is billed as the biggest protest since Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President in 2007.

“It’s obviously an irritation,” said one hopeful rail traveller, “but with everything that’s happening in this country, you can sympathise with them.”

Another passenger said: “This strike is a pity. It prevents public transport from running properly.” But he had some sympathy for the strikers, adding that those with physically demanding jobs could be disadvantaged by the reform plans.

Raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 is a cornerstone of Sarkozy’s policies.

The government is adamant the main points of the pension bill are not negotiable saying it is essential to balance the pension books by 2018.

But research shows two-thirds of voters think it is unfair, and according to one political analyst in Paris, the French people have never been so convinced in modern times that they are on the receiving end of a social injustice.

Trade unionists want these protests to be the first of many.

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