Thursday, November 22, 2007

French Transit Strike is a Referendum on Sarkozy

As France’s transit strike enters its eighth day, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has stood firm in his first attempt to extract concessions from a set of workers, in seeking to curb some of the pension benefits for new workers. Transit workers are able to retire as young as fifty, rather than the minimum cutoff of 60 for most other French workers.

At this point, as many as 38% of the transit workers have sought a return to work.

Sarkozy announced, “France needs reforms to meet the challenges imposed on it by the world,” and he’s absolutely right about that. There’s simply no need, in an age when people are living longer and healthier lives, that some workers are allowed, even encouraged to retire at FIFTY years of age!

When Jacques Chirac sought the same concessions from the same Unions back in 1995, the unions paralyzed France for three weeks and Chirac backed down. That scenario seems highly unlikely today, as Sarkozy has gone about playing public opinion against the transit workers. As a lure, Sarkozy is considering proposing cuts in the labor taxes, in exchange for concessions from some of the workers who now enjoy “special pensions.”

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