Unions strike over benefits
Hundreds of thousands of French workers took to the streets for the second day of nationwide strikes this month to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age to 62, with union walkouts crippling air and train travel and disrupting schools across the country.
The government and unions disagreed about the turnout even more than usual. The Interior Ministry said 997,000 protesters marched nationwide, 123,000 fewer than during protests two weeks ago. But labor leaders — who had urged people to march in even greater numbers than during the last round of protests, on Sept. 7 — said the movement was gaining steam and put the turnout at nearly 3 million.
Sarkozy has indicated that he is willing to make marginal concessions but remains firm on the central pillar: increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62 and pushing the age for those who want full retirement benefits from 65 to 67.