French workers continue their strikes as fuel shortages grow more serious.
By Elise Favis
Frustrations in France grow stronger as riots and strikes have broken out through Paris, in protest of the new pension reform regarding retirement age for workers.
Ongoing protests have been occurring since early September, most of which have been peaceful. However, the recent violent outbreaks have changed the entire outlook. Two weeks ago, a group of at least 825,000 outraged young adults overturned roadblocks, torched cars, and smashed the windows of storefronts.
There have been hundreds of flight cancellations and delays in Paris, due to the blockade of protestors at Marseille, Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. Strikes have caused oil refineries to face fuel shortages and have forced drivers to line up in front of gas stations.
Workers have participated in strikes in many cities including Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Lille and Toulouse, stated the BBC.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who proposed the reform, wishes to change the retirement age from 60 to 62 for the residents of France, because of the heightening government debt. The pension has already been approved by the National Assembly and French Parliament’s lower house.
In response to the violent outbreaks, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde guaranteed that the ongoing protests will be more controlled, and that “no one should panic,” reported the BBC.
“The clashes did not last long, but they are a reminder to the government and unions of how quickly things can get out of hand,” said the BBC’s correspondent in Paris.
Christian Coste of the CGT Trade Union told the Associated Press that, “We [the unions] are not here to bring France to its knees and create a shortage. We are here to make ourselves heard.”
“With nearly a third of France’s gas stations dry, authorities stepped in overnight to force open three fuel depots blocked by striking workers for days,” Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said to CBS.
He added to the rioters that “the right to protest is not the right to break things, the right to set things on fire, the right to assault, the right to pillage.”
Hortefeux also stated that the strikes and oil problems could have huge consequences on France’s economy and public health safety.
CBC said that even with the new reform, France would still have one of the lowest statistics for retirement ages in the developed world.