Signalling their determination to keep fighting even after a bill raising the retirement age becomes law, the country’s six main unions have called for two more days of action on Oct 28 and Nov 6 against the unpopular reform.
“The protests are not stopping, we just have different views on how to proceed,” Jean-Claude Mailly, head of the more radical Force Ouvriere union told RMC radio. “We still think that demonstrating is not enough... we have to ramp it up... we need a strong day of public and private sector strikes.”
The centre-right government resorted to a special guillotine procedure to speed the reform bill’s passage through the Senate, with a vote now due on Friday evening as pressure builds on Sarkozy to end the long-running impasse with the unions ahead of half-term holidays beginning this weekend.
The president’s popularity ratings are near an all-time low 18 months before a presidential election in which he is widely expected to seek a second term.
In addition to transport disruption, Sarkozy is battling 11-day-old refinery strikes and fuel depot blockades that Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said have forced the closure of one in five petrol stations across the country.
Police ended a blockade at dawn of Total’s Grandpuits oil refinery, which supplies fuel for the Paris area. Police and strikers scuffled at the refinery southeast of the capital and one person was carried away on a stretcher, footage showed.
“We had the ‘rafles’ (roundups) during Petain’s time: now in the era of Sarkozy we have the roundup of our social and union rights,” said Charles Foulard, leader of the oil sector workers. “Sarkozy has declared war.”