French protesters defy rain to march again
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Tens of thousands of French protesters have flooded into the streets once again to march against President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reform. The bill was passed by the parliament last week. This is the eighth national one-day strike call in two months against the government's plans to alter the retirement benefit system in France.
The Communist-backed trade union, the CGT has vowed to keep up the protest even if there are rifts among the different unions over what action to take.
One union, the CFDT, is already taking a more conciliatory approach.
It’s leader, Bernard Thibault, said the key date is the 1 July, when the measures are due to come into effect.
The most significant is an initial increase in the legal age of retirement from 60 to 62, which the government believes will go as high as 67.
According to the interior ministry, around 142,000 people had marched in 132 separate rallies around the country by noon Saturday.
This is a sharp decrease from the 198,000 which had done so on the last big day of protest on 28 October.
Astrid Grant, an actress with the Théâtre du Soleil, was at the demonstration. She told RFI there has been no drop in the strength of the movement.
“Certainly the energy amongst the people hasn’t changed at all even though we’ve been in a two-week school holiday period," Grant said.
"There are a lot of students here and everyone is just as resilient and resistant to the stubbornness of the government as they have been before.
“Ultimately this is a fight for social justice that transcends any boundary and any nationality. There’s a sense of solidarity for human justice and that’s why I am here.”
Union leaders still say the protests have the potential to force Sarkozy to agree amendments to the law before in comes into effect.
Sarkozy's ministers have said they are ready to talk about some measures to soften the blow of longer years of pension payments for some workers, but the president insists raising the minimum pension age is "essential".
Unions leader have said there will be a new day of mobilisation between November 22 and 26, but they have yet to decide what form it will take.