FRANCE - Five rail unions have announced plans to strike on October 18 in protest against proposed pension reforms.
The unions, including the conféderation française démocratique du travail (CFDT) and Force Ouvrière (FO), joined together to propose the action just days after French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for public sector pensions to be brought into line with the rest of the country.
Outlining its action plan, the FO said a 24-hour strike would be the first stage in a campaign which it hoped would spread.
Union SudRail has also opposed any reform to the current “régimes spéciaux”, the special retirement systems which for many years have granted perks to public sector workers.
The union said it would resist any compromise which saw its employees handed “unfavourable” pensions, warning: “It is not negotiable.”
Other parts of the public sector have also been urged to join in the protest by the unions.
Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how events will pan out, as during his presidential election campaign, Sarkozy cited the right to strike as one of the areas of legislation he would address.
Plans for a strike arose after Sarkozy announced that the government would soon begin negotiations with unions over reforms to the “régimes spéciaux”.
In its current state, the French economy subsidises these “régimes spéciaux” by around €5bn as worker contributions do not meet fund liabilities.
The last attempt at reforming these systems in 1995 by the prime minister at the time, Alain Juppé, resulted in mass protest and Juppé backing down.
Reforms in 2003 also avoided public sector pensions to avoid potential strike action.
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