Europe

Pension reform vote: Views from France

  • 22 October 2010
  • From the section Europe

The French Senate has passed a controversial pension reform bill, which has caused a series of strikes and protests around France.

The senators approved President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, following a week of blockades, protests and strikes led by trade unions.

Three residents in France give their views on the continuing strikes and the pension reform bill:

Heidi Garnier, Charenton-le-Pont

Heidi with her husband

I'm German-born but have been living in France for over 40 years.

The very day I arrived in France there was a general strike. I'd never seen anything like it before - I felt like I'd just landed on a different planet.

The French never seem to discuss their problems before they strike. In Germany the cultural attitude towards striking is completely different.

If there is a problem, the Trade Unions in Germany sit down and have a negotiation. Even if it takes all night, or three days, they will talk and will only strike as a very last resort.

France seems to be the only country in Europe where people want to retire as soon as they have left nursery school.

I am very satisfied with the result of the vote. I discussed it with my husband and we have the same opinion.

It is absolutely necessary to have a reform. As the age pyramid has changed, there is too much money to be paid for the pensions and not enough money to pay them.

I have a private pension myself and I've told my daughter she will have to make private provision for her pension.

This is not a question of being conservative, socialist or I don't know what. It is a question of calculation. You can't spend 1000 when you only have 800.

I think there will be some more protests next week, but the reform will take place, so that people who are 40 will have a chance to get a pension.

Georgina Thompson, Rouen

I'm of dual British-French nationality and I teach in a school in the suburbs of Rouen.

I've taken part in the national strikes on pension reforms since June, demonstrating in central Rouen on a number of occasions.

I have been striking this week and meeting with local groups and larger cross-trade union groups to talk about our strike action.

I'd probably say that I'm disappointed without being surprised by the outcome of the vote in the Senate. President Sarkozy has clearly shown that he's unwilling to heed what the strikers and protesters have to say.

The decree of application hasn't yet been published; there are already a number of demonstrations and strike actions planned in and around Rouen over the next few days and I'll be taking part.

There does need to be some kind of pension reform, but I'm not convinced that this is the type of reform we need.

There are other problems with the French economy, for example many people being laid off before the age of 60 and not being able to make up their full pension.

The whole system really needs an overhaul - not these measures that are being proposed.

I am losing money by striking, and I was back at work today and will work tomorrow in order not to lose out on holiday pay.

Alexandre Aba, Grenoble

Alexandre Aba

I'm an unemployed computer aided designer and I am struggling to find a new job.

I'm really annoyed about this at the moment, because the strikes are preventing me from getting to job interviews. We can't use the trains or drive anywhere because of the fuel shortage.

At this time of crisis, strikes are extremely disrespectful to the private sector, who are effectively paying for civil servants.

Going on strike is one thing, but messing up our economy is another and these strikes are so bad for France's reputation.

We're losing contracts, investment, everything. In a few years, at this rate, France will be a third world country.

I'm thrilled by the Senate vote. But this is only one tiny step forward, a few steps in the process are remaining to complete the reform.

The true shame is that France is a wonderful country but its people do not know how to behave and adapt in the worldwide economy.

Unions and civil servants are living in the past. Evolution and economic growth is the key factor to getting back in business.

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