French unions march against pension reforms
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
French Sud Solidaires labour union workers demonstrate during a protest over pension reforms in Lyon, September 10, 2013. REUTERS photoFrench unions took to the streets Tuesday in protest against another proposed overhaul of France's debt-ridden pension system, but no big disruptions were reported over a reform generally regarded as moderate.
Pension overhauls are highly contentious in France -- with previous efforts in 1995 and 2010 unleashing mass protests and damaging strikes -- but the Socialist government's latest reform has not yet met with the same level of resistance.
Four hardline unions called for protests Tuesday in 180 locations across the country, but moderate unions did not back the call, saying they hoped to seek changes in parliament.
In the western city of Nantes, police said 4,500 protesters marched in the streets, while the CGT union said 8,000 demonstrated.
Protests also took place in other cities around the country, as well as in France's Indian Ocean Reunion island.
In Paris, the FO and CGT unions will march together in the afternoon.
Unions have denounced the reform as "anti-youth" because it will incrementally raise the total contribution period from the current 41.5 years to 43 years by 2035, meaning employees will need to work longer to be eligible for full pensions.
A full package of reforms will be officially put forward on September 18 as France, under pressure from the European Union, looks to plug holes that will see its generous state pension scheme fall more than 20 billion euros ($26.5 billion) into the red by 2020.
The reform plan also proposes increasing employee and employer contributions to France's retirement system, but avoids more controversial proposals such as raising the official retirement age or slapping a new tax on French retirees.
The French parliament is to consider the measures in October.
The protest's impact was minimal early afternoon on Tuesday, with very few disruptions reported on train services or at the Paris airports of Orly and Charles de Gaulle.
"We are not expecting marches that will be as big as in 2010," when three million people protested against then-president Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reforms, a government source told AFP.