PARIS: French lawmakers were to pass an unpopular pensions reform on Wednesday, on the eve of another day of strikes and street protests aimed at convincing President Nicolas Sarkozy not to enact it.
The National Assembly was to vote through the final draft of the law, which will increase France’s minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, despite several weeks of trade union-led mass demonstrations around the country.
Thursday will mark the ninth day of action, with labour leaders calling for a general strike and for protest marches in more than 100 towns and cities.But Sarkozy’s supporters point to a tailing off in parallel actions in key sectors such as refining and fuel distribution, as well as the now inevitable parliamentary vote, as evidence that the strikers have failed.
“There’s a time for unions and a time for parliament. In modern democracies there’s a principle: parliament votes on a law and when a law has been voted you enact it,” said Jean-Francois Cope,head of Sarkozy’s party in parliament.
For their part, government ministers were more careful to avoid outward signs of triumphalism, keenly aware that the bill lacks public support.
“I’ll be careful not to make any predictions,” Labour Minister Eric Woerth, the architect of the law, told the financial daily La Tribune when asked if he feared that the strike movement could regain its momentum.
“I would say, however, that there are positive signs, with for example the restart of rubbish collection in Marseille. I note as well that the blockade of the country is absolutely not supported by the French public,” he said.