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France wakes up to unpopular pension reform

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France wakes up to unpopular pension reform


It is supposed to be holiday time in France but for many people waking up on Saturday morning that was far from the case.

Severe shortages at the fuel pumps caused by days of strikes between the unions and government meant the customary get away from the big cities was a real grind.

‘‘The situation is not getting any better but we can find petrol. The transport system is in a big mess. Trains are full and crowded, people have started getting aggressive, everyone’s fed up but I don’t think the government will stop,’‘ one woman at a fuel service station.

On Friday night, President Nicolas Sarkozy finally got his way after the French upper house Senate narrowly gave its approval to his controversial pension reform bill. That will see the retirement age raised by two years.

It could become law as early as next week but the unions have vowed to fight on, keeping up the blockades on fuel depots.

One union representative said: ‘‘The workers will continue the strike this weekend and we will go to court about the requisitions on Monday.’‘

A reference to the police intervention on Friday that forced open a strategic oil refinery near Paris. However, unions scored a legal victory after a court struck down the back-to-work order, saying it did not respect the right to strike.

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