French Senate passes pension bill
The senators approved President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, and it could become law as early as next week.
Mr Sarkozy says the measure is necessary to reduce the deficit. But hundreds of thousands have protested against what they see as an attack on their rights.
The government says the reform is needed to save the indebted pension system from collapse. Unions say retirement at 60 is a hard-earned right and say the reform is unfair to workers.
“It is not by hanging on symbols of the past that we will remain a great nation,” labour minister Eric Woerth told the Senate shortly before the vote.
On Friday, the upper house of the French parliament voted in favour of a pension reform raising the retirement age to 62. Union leaders have called for two more general strikes and French schoolchildren have threatened continued protests through the holidays. As the authorities struggled to restore petrol supplies across the country following the blockading of France’s 12 oil refineries, opinion polls gave a confused and contradictory picture of the level of support for more industrial action.
The move brought anger from the Socialist party opposition. “You have not finished with pensions. You have ignored the French people. You have not listened to our proposals. Your reform is unfair,” Jean-Pierre Bel, head of the Socialist Senate group, said. Another opposition senator, Pierre Mauroy, 82, said he was “dismayed” by the vote but added: “I don’t consider myself beaten because this business is not finished.”
Sarkozy, who has made pension reform the central measure of his first term in office, is determined that the final vote will take place on Tuesday after which the changes become law.
QUESTIONS FOR DEBATES:
1: Do you think raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 fair?
2: Would there be other measures to reduce the deficit?
3: What could be done to change this reality that has been making a lot of people angry?
Retirement: removal or withdrawal from service, office, or business.
Dismay: to break down the courage of completely, as by sudden danger or trouble.
Take Place: to happen, occur.