France Shut-down Over Retirement Age Battle

Published on AlterNet, by AFP, Oct. 22, 2010.

French unions step up pressure on President Nicolas Sarkozy to cave in on pension reform, calling for more mass strikes and street protests as parts of the country start to run dry following fuel blockades. The call for workers to join two new days of nationwide demonstrations next Thursday and on November 6 came after another day of unrest across France that saw protestors blocking key sites and clashing with police.

“Strengthened by the support of workers, the young and a majority of the population … the labour organisations have decided to continue and to broaden the mobilisation,” the main unions said in a joint statement. More than a million people took to the streets on Tuesday, the sixth day of action since early September, to protest the plan to raise the standard minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 and full pension age from 65 to 67 … //

… Police have arrested children as young as 10 at the demonstrations, some of whom have been tried in juvenile courts. Thousands of young people joined spontaneous mass demonstrations around the country. “We would have burnt this reform but there’s no petrol left,” read one banner waved by students in Bordeaux.

Activists blocked access to Marseille airport for several hours Thursday before being  cleared by police, causing tailbacks of several kilometres (miles). Troops were sent in to clear rubbish from the streets of the Mediterranean port where garbage collectors are on strike, while a similar strike in Toulouse intensified on Thursday, with workers blocking access to dumps.

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