New protest planned after France passes pension reform

The French parliament adopted President Nicolas Sarkozy`s fiercely contested law on pension reform after a final vote by MPs despite weeks of nationwide protests and strikes.

Paris: The French parliament on Wednesday
adopted President Nicolas Sarkozy`s fiercely contested law on
pension reform after a final vote by MPs despite weeks of
nationwide protests and strikes.

The National Assembly voted 336 for and 233 against
the final draft of the law, which will increase France`s
minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, amid ongoing protests
that have threatened to bring the country to a standstill.

Sarkozy must now sign off on the law and publish it in
the official gazette, which a presidential advisor has said
will happen on or around November 15.

Unions have nevertheless called for a ninth day of
action tomorrow, including strikes and protest marches in more
than 100 towns and cities, and another day of "family rallies"
is planned for November 6.

"The great reform that was announced has turned into a
pitiful legislative pumpkin," said Socialist MP Marisol
Touraine. "You dreamt of reforming audacity and you`ve found
yourselves with a country in crisis."

"You`ve spoken a lot about courage," she said to
Labour Minister Eric Woerth, the architect of the law. "But
you`ve chosen to make the weakest pay, to attack those with
the least means."

Sarkozy`s government has been careful to avoid outward
signs of triumphalism, keenly aware that the bill lacks public
support.

Jean Leonetti of Sarkozy`s UMP party said that the
law`s passing "is neither a victory for the majority over the
opposition nor of parliament over the street (but) a victory
of the public interest."

Despite the call for fresh protests, Sarkozy`s
supporters have pointed to a tailing off of industrial action
in key sectors such as refining and fuel distribution as
evidence that the strikers have failed.

Protests since the start of September repeatedly
brought more than a million people onto the streets and the
battle between unions and the government has seen Sarkozy`s
approval rating collapse to less than 30 per cent.

Tomorrow`s rally falls during the French half-term
school holidays, and the president`s camp is hoping that this,
alongside the passage of the law, will see the protest
movement losing steam and a slow return to normal.

PTI

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