French Pension Strikes Losing Steam

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PARIS - French unions called another nationwide strike Thursday against reforms to the nation's retirement system passed by the National Assembly earlier this week.
    
The protests are a last-ditch effort to convince French President Nicholas Sarkozy not to sign the measure raising the retirement age from 60 to 62.

However, it appears the strikes are losing steam. Turnout was noticeably weaker this time around - a sign that the French are losing their appetite for the kind of violence and confrontation seen last week.

The people have been bearing the brunt of fuel shortages, rail strikes and mountains and mountains of uncollected garbage.

The growing mountains of trash are a symbol of the growing social unrest, the growing threat to the French government and the growing crisis of the French welfare state.

Sarkozy was elected in part to fix the system, but he has been seen by the people as being abrasive and uncaring, and his popularity is now at all time lows.

"What this really is, is a referendum against Sarkozy, that they don't like him," London Telegraph columnist Anne Elisabeth Moutet explained. "They don't like his style, that he's asking them to make sacrifices that he's not making himself."

Nevertheless, the National Assembly has passed the retirement measure, and Sarkozy is expected sign it into law next month.

So, while it appears Sarkozy has won this round, it remains to be seen if it will cost him his political career or if adding two more years in the retirement age can save France's expensive pension system.

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