Workers in France launched a week-long series of protests from Sep 4, 2010 to protest against the plans of the French government to carry out “reforms” of the pension system which would mean that the working people would have to work for a larger number of years in order to be able to claim pension benefits. These protests took place against the background of the plans of the French government to push the burden of the economic crisis on the backs of the working people while continuing to provide massive subsidies to the big corporations and tax breaks to the rich.
Under current rules, workers in France can retire at 60, provided they have paid social security contributions (that is, worked gainfully) for 40.5 years – and get a full pension from the age of 65. The government has introduced bills which would raise the age of retirement to 62 in order to claim pension, and full pension would be paid only from the age of 67 provided one has worked for 41.5 years.
On Tuesday, 7th September 2010, a general strike was called. The strike was very successful, and massive demonstrations across the country brought life to a near standstill. More than 200 demonstrations were organised in different cities of France. Flights, train, hospital services were affected while post offices, and schools and universities remained shut. The turnout was much stronger even than the strikes in June 2010. Nearly 25 lakh workers participated in the General Strike. The demonstration in Paris was so massive, it had to split into two different routes.
Protesters carried placards denouncing the austerity measures, and demanded that the rich must be made to pay instead. The racist attacks on immigrants, Muslims, gypsies and others were condemned.
It is clear that the workers in France are not going to let the government ride rough shod over them.
Protests elsewhere in Europe
Metro services in London came to a halt on September 7, 2010 as thousands of maintenance workers, drivers and station staff who walked out say job cuts will hurt service and safety. With the underground train service shut, buses had to take on extra loads, while vehicular traffic was heavy and city sidewalks were teeming with walkers and bikers.
All across Europe, workers are planning actions in the coming days. There will be a European "day of action" on September 29, 2010. Spanish workers have called for a general strike on that day. They are protesting new laws that will enable easier hire and fire. They are also protesting at raising of retirement age from 65 to 67. This will be the first General Strike in Spain since 2002. Workers of the Czech Republic are planning a massive protest against proposed austerity measures including a 10% cut in pay.