FRANCE - Amid promises of a further round of strikes over the proposed changes to French ‘régimes spéciaux' pensions next week, Président Nicholas Sarkozy and Premier Ministre François Fillon have come out fighting.
The major rail unions have announced further 24-hour strikes starting on 14 November, with additional support from workers in the energy sector. The actions would be a repeat of those which brought Paris and much of France to a standstill in October.
Sarkozy, currently in the US, told members of the French American Business Council: “There will be strikes and demonstrations, but I will hold firm. Not because I am obstinate, but because it is in the interests of my country. We have declined too far, we can go no further.
“I have been promised a difficult November. It’s not the month of November that will be difficult, but my entire term of office. I was elected to do difficult things and I will do them.”
His comments were backed by Fillon, who told TV network Europe 1: “There won’t be any more [concessions to the strikers]. I have shown in the past that I’m not the type to give in [to demands]. I’m ready to face the crisis and even a certain amount of unpopularity.”
He added: “There are bad habits which have taken hold, governments who always gave way before a certain number of pressure groups.”
As Global Pensions has reported, the union unrest stems from proposed reforms to the ‘régimes spéciaux’ pension plans for certain public-sector workers.
Under the current terms, workers were eligible to retire after 37.5 years as opposed to 40 for other public and private sector workers.
At present, the French economy subsidies the ‘régimes spéciaux’ by around €5bn (US$7.3bn) as worker contributions do not meet fund liabilities.
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