Tens Of Thousands hit streets in New French protest
* From: AFP
* November 07, 2010 3:38AM
TENS of thousands of French protesters took to the streets again today
for what might prove to be the last in their recent series of marches
against President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reform.
Parliament has already passed a fiercely contested law increasing the
minimum pension age from 60 to 62, and French trade unions are no
longer united in calling for more street protests, so the movement
appears to be fading.
According to the interior ministry, around 142,000 people had marched
in 132 separate rallies around the country by midday, down sharply from
the 198,000 which had done so on the last big day of protest on October
The largest march, in Paris, got under way after the police estimate
was issued and appeared to have drawn tens of thousands more
protesters, although even union leaders admitted there were fewer than
They insisted protests could yet force Sarkozy to agree to amendments
to the law before in comes into effect.
"Today's day of protest marks another high point, there will be
others," Bernard Thibault, the head of the powerful CGT, told the
Communist daily L'Humanite, insisting that his union would "go on right
to the end".
"For us, the key date is July 1, 2011, when the measures we are opposed
to come into effect. Between now and then we have a very real chance of
creating the kind of strength necessary to open negotiations," he said.
Sarkozy's ministers have said they are ready to talk about some
measures to soften the blow of longer years of pension payments for
some workers, but the president insists raising the minimum pension age
Other labour leaders appear ready to concede on this point.
"If I said today 'We're going to force the president to back down'
no-one would believe me. People would say, 'That guy there, he's
dreaming'," admitted Francois Chereque, leader of the large CFDT union.
Saturday's marches are the eighth in a series of large-scale days of
protest, but a series of parallel strikes in the oil industry and other
key sectors that once threatened to paralyse the economy has now ended.
Previous protests have been well supported, drawing around a million
demonstrators each time according to the police, or between two and 3.5
million according to trade union estimates.
Opinion polls show a majority of French voters support the protests,
and Sarkozy's approval rating has dropped to a new low of less than 30
Unions leader have said there will be a new day of mobilisation between
November 22 and 26, but they have yet to decide what form it will take
and there are signs that their coalition is cracking.
The government's reform will see the pension age rise to 62 by 2018, a
move Mr Sarkozy claims will save tens of billions of euros at a time of
soaring budget deficits and rising life expectancy among retirees.