Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Vive Le Thousands of EU Workers Who are Saying "No to Austerity"


Why was this in the Travel Section??? Didn't even see it in NYTimes.


Thousands gathered in Marseille, Lyon, Paris and other cities for marches to cap the strikes. In Paris, the crowd marched to drum beats, with many carrying balloons. The Interior Ministry said that as of noon, some 450,000 people were demonstrating throughout France.

The French strike coincides with the start of debate in parliament over a plan to overhaul the money-losing pension system so it will break even in 2018. The government insists the reform is essential as people are living longer, and it has urged everyone to show "courage" as it tries to chip away at the huge national debt.

The French retirement age of 60 is already among the lowest in Europe. In contrast, neighboring Germany has decided to bump the retirement age from 65 to 67 and the U.S. Social Security system is gradually raising the retirement age to 67.

But unions say the French government is attacking one of the country's most cherished social protections.

"If we need money ... we know where to find it," said Guy Gamet, 55-year-old representative of the Workers Force union as he marched in Lyon, in the southeast. "When it was necessary to bail out the banks not so long ago, we knew where to find the money."

The thousands of London maintenance workers, drivers and station staff who walked out say job cuts will hurt service and safety. With the underground train service shut, buses had to take on extra loads, while vehicular traffic was heavy and city sidewalks were teeming with walkers and bikers.

Only about 40 percent of the city's 500 Tube trains ran Tuesday morning, putting heavy pressure on buses and other ways to get around London.

"The bus system has been a mess today, but I got here," said Anita Prazmowska of South London.

The Tube is expected to be back to normal on Wednesday.

The action in France and Britain appeared a precursor to more discontent elsewhere in Europe. A general strike was planned in Spain for Sept. 29 over labor market reforms, and in the Czech Republic, a massive protest against proposed austerity measures, including 10 percent salary cuts for state employees, was set for Sept. 21.

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