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article imageLyon retirement reform protests weaken Special

By Mila Petkovic     Nov 24, 2010 in World
Lyon - On Nov. 23, between 3,200 and 7,000 people in Lyon, France came out to protest against the new retirement reform law. The French government changed the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 and the maximum age from 65 to 67 in mid-November.
The reforms were passed in hopes of reducing public spending and to accommodate increasing life-expectancy. Around 27,000 people protested throughout France, reports Radio Espace online.
The protest began at Saxe Gambetta and continued to Cordeliers, where the various union groups conglomerated in front of the Palais du Commerce. Several important labour unions were present, including CGT (General Labour Union) and CFDT (French Democratic Labour Union). However, Unions FO (Labour Force) and CGC (General Salaried Employee Union) did not participate in the demonstration. It appears the unions are no longer unified as some withdrew from the movement after the law was passed.
Didier Savel  member of the Teacher s Union.
Didier Savel, member of the Teacher's Union.
Didier Savel of SNES (National Teacher’s Union) commented that fewer teachers and people in general are still active in the movement. When asked why his union continues to protest even though the law has already been passed, Didier explained: “To show this government and let future governments know that despite everything, we do not accept the reforms and we are not abandoning the movement. We are also demonstrating our right to protest. It does not matter that the reforms went through—it is the political idea and philosophy that we are standing for.”
Students from High School St. Rom joined the protest  as they most likely didn t have school today.
Students from High School St. Rom joined the protest, as they most likely didn't have school today.
Didier and his union do not sympathize with the violent protesters who vandalized Lyon shops and damaged public property in mid-October. He declared the rioters negatively affected the movement because of the bad press they received. Didier shared his disappointment in other unions who gave up on the movement when the law was changed.
A CGT member, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she also feels let down by the other unions who opted not to participate today, remarking that the splitting of the unions is weakening the movement. She thinks that the retirement reforms could still be appealed if people and unions make an effort to mobilize. She stated that Jean-Luc Mélenchon, politician and co-president of Parti de Gauche, could be the key to changing the reform law, if elected in 2012. Like Didier, she refuses to acknowledge the rioters as part of the movement.
Members of the NPA (New Anti-capitalist Party). Paul is on the left and Colette on the right.
Members of the NPA (New Anti-capitalist Party). Paul is on the left and Colette on the right.
Paul and Colette Duperry of the NPA (New Anti-capitalist party) claim they are protesting today in order to “show the government that the people do not agree with the new law.” Paul recalls that this is the ninth protest of the movement and that it has been supported by the majority of French citizens. In September, La Tribune online reported that seventy percent of French people approved the demonstrations against retirement reforms.
When asked about her view on the rioters, Colette said, “We can’t excuse them, but we can understand them. They were pushed to a certain degree by social reasons like unemployment as well as by the police.” Paul stated on this matter: “The question we have to ask is not whether they were right or wrong, but WHY they did it.”
Colette and Paul are also disappointed in the non-participation of other unions. Colette explains that FO (Labour Force) declined to take part because they would prefer to organize a general strike for maximum impact and reach. The unions protesting today disagree because a general strike is too expensive. “When people go on strike they are not paid, and not all members of the movement can afford to continue doing this,” Colette says.
Members of the Socialist Party. Beatrice Joclerne is third from the left.
Members of the Socialist Party. Beatrice Joclerne is third from the left.
Beatrice Joclerne of the Socialist Party believes the retirement reforms could still be reversed. “There are nine Socialist Party candidates for the next election, and if one of them is elected, he or she could change the law,” she shares. Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry stated on the Socialist Party website that if her party is elected its members will appeal the retirement reform law.
Cordeliers  Lyon. Basilique de Fourviere looms overhead.
Cordeliers, Lyon. Basilique de Fourviere looms overhead.
The Socialist Party website declares the newly imposed law cannot solve the national debt problem, and proposes a less severe retirement reform tailored to individual needs. The party accuses the Sarkozy government of being undemocratic as its members refused to listen to the French people or negotiate with unions.
The movement against retirement reforms has weakened considerably, as shown by the decreasing number of demonstrators. Some believe today’s protest is the last, and a symbolic one at that. Others, like the woman from CGT and Beatrice from the Socialist party, believe the retirement law could still be appealed. Didier stated that no further protests have been organized at this time.
See more photos of the event here.
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