Strike Two for France

by Denis Boyles

The union-led protests earlier this month (my brief Corner report is here) in France are back today. The complaint is against Sarkozy’s plan to gradually roll back the retirement age from 60 (the lowest in Europe) to 62. France’s debt already exceeds EU limits and if unreformed, the pensions will only drive that debt higher. France is broke, so neither Sarkozy nor the rival Socialists have any options but to reduce debt. The alternative is to go Greek, something only the Communist-saturated CGT union members want. But since the state is the biggest employer, cutting back government employee perks fills the boulevards with raised-fist motor vehicles clerks and the like. Meanwhile, blaming EU policies for the need for the cutbacks isn’t doing much to grow support for Brussels and its own batch of overpaid bureaucrats.

Few expect this round of strikes to measure up to the last one, when more than a million French workers laid down their cups of coffee and little chocolates and took to the streets. Even as they announced two more rounds of strikes for next month, the unions are playing down their expectations for the strikes today, according to this report in Le Figaro. La Croix has hour-by-hour coverage.

Germany’s economy, unlike that of France (or the U.S., for that matter), is robust and growing, thanks to frugality and an avoidance of stimulus-style debt. German workers — who recently accepted a retirement age of 67 — are the ones being asked to pay, however indirectly, for the entitlements of French workers. This map in Le Figaro showing the impact of strikes across the EU shows a modest, little dot over Germany, like a wee rain cloud. France’s dot covers all of Gaul with gloom.

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