French trade unions met yesterday to finalise arrangements for ‘a day of strikes and demonstrations’ across France on September 7th.
There is enormous anger over government plans to extend the retirement age from 60 to 62 or even 67 years and increase the contribution period to 41.2 years.
A joint statement issued by the Inter CFDT, CFTC, CFE.CGC, CGT, FSU, INTEGRAL and UNSA unions said: ‘After the strong mobilisation in the first half of this year, including on June 24 last, the many initiatives that have punctuated the summer show the determination of employees to voice their demands and proposals for the reform of pensions whose content is unfair and unacceptable.
‘The summer period was marked by the persistence of economic and social crisis – the unemployment situation still worse especially for young people – and the announcement of austerity measures mainly borne by employees.
‘The government pursues a policy inadequate in terms of jobs and purchasing power, that increases inequality.
‘When the draft pension reform is discussed by parliament, trade unions will reiterate their strong opposition to it.
‘This reform does not meet current challenges.
‘Employment issues including youth and seniors, those of gender inequalities, the hardship, support for sustainable funding, a different distribution of wealth created, are not only not addressed, but place 85 per cent of the burden on employees.
‘We question the 60-year legal retirement age deferral to 62 and 67 years, which will strongly penalise employees including those who started working young, those with incomplete and on and off careers, particularly women.
‘Trade unions believe that nothing is resolved and call all private sector employees and the public, job seekers, youth and pensioners to continue building a large-scale mobilisation and making September 7 a huge day of strikes and mass demonstrations.
‘The government and MPs should listen to the mobilisation of workers and meet their demands for more choice in pensions, employment and purchasing power.
‘The unions will meet after September 8 to analyse the situation and decide on further early mobilisation.’
l The Sarkozy government yesterday made it clear that France will continue to deport hundreds of Gypsies evicted from camps across the country despite widespread criticism.
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux claimed in a radio interview: ‘It’s not a question of expelling Roma because they are Roma. We are stigmatising nobody.
‘Everyone understands that we are enforcing simple rules. You cannot just illegally occupy land without authorisation.’
Separately, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said France had already sent back 635 Gypsies to their home countries of Romania and Bulgaria after dismantling their dwellings since the crackdown began earlier this month. About 950 more Gypsies would be repatriated by the end of the month.
Since France began the ‘voluntary’ deportation of Roma, offering 300 euros as an ‘incentive’ to each departing adult, Romanian authorities have denounced the policy.
And foreign-born Gypsies who refuse to take a flight will be issued orders to leave France within a month, without the handout.
The policy has provoked huge anger in France, being condemned by the French trade unions and opposition MPs, who have described it as ‘xenophobic’ and ‘racist’. It has also split President Sarkozy’s UMP ruling party.
The European Commission announced yesterday that it would examine the legality of France’s measures to expel Gypsies.