TOPICS > Economy

French Parliament Passes Retirement Reform

October 27, 2010 at 5:34 PM EST
Loading the player...
Despite heated street protests, France's parliament voted in favor of pension reform, including an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

JIM LEHRER: Now to the French struggle in Parliament and in the streets over retirement and pensions. Ray Suarez has that story.

RAY SUAREZ: Capping a month of unrest, the French Parliament adopted reforms to the nation’s pension system, raising the minimum retirement age from 60 to age 62. The age to get a full pension would go from 65 to 67.

ERIC WOERTH, French labor minister (through translator): It is an important day for the vote of the law for the pension reform. It is an important day for all French people, for those who retired and for those who will retire in the future, whose pension wasn’t guaranteed before.

RAY SUAREZ: The government of President Nicolas Sarkozy had warned that, with the French living longer lives, the generous benefits system would buckle, unless it changed. Some agreed with the two-year hike in the retirement threshold.

JEROME DUMONT, France (through translator): If you compare France to other European countries, we are the country that let people retire earlier. This reform was really needed.

RAY SUAREZ: Others were equally certain the French should retire earlier than most Europeans.

MAN: Because we are French, and we are the best, you know?

RAY SUAREZ: In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands took the streets, in the kind of upheaval not seen in France for years. General strikes crippled airports and trains. Schools shut down. Striking sanitation workers let garbage pile up in the streets of the southern port city of Marseilles, while tanker ships lined up over the horizon, waiting for closed docks to open.

Those port closures meant gas was in short supply. Getting even a few gallons was an ordeal.

LUIGI SPANACINO, France (through translator): Very, very hard. I have been looking for 30 minutes this morning, and, finally, I have been lucky.

RAY SUAREZ: In recent days, some of the strikes and closures have begun to abate, but opposition Socialists warned today, the trouble is not over.

MAN (through translator): The Elysee ought not to think that, once the vote has been passed, the protests will calm down and there will be a new start, because the feeling remains that this reform is unfair and has been imposed on the French people. There is a great frustration.

RAY SUAREZ: Unions have called for nationwide demonstrations and strikes tomorrow.