A Pyrrhic Victory in France
McNicoll, Tracy, Newsweek
Byline: Tracy McNicoll
Nicolas Sarkozy may well win his pension battle against the unions, but the French president will have little cause to celebrate. After weeks of strikes, fuel blockades, and street protests, the Senate finally passed his austerity bill late last week, another major legislative step toward raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the age at which workers can retire on full pension from 65 to 67. He needs to reassure financial markets that heavily indebted France is serious about reform. But as Sarkozy nears victory in Parliament, France's unions are determined to keep fighting. The latest polls say a full
69 percent of the public is on their side, and new strikes and protests are scheduled for Oct. 28 and Nov. 6, just before Sarkozy signs the bill into law.
Elsewhere in Europe the belt tighteners are riding high. In Britain, where David Cameron's coalition government announced spending cuts last week that will mean the loss of 490,000 public-sector jobs over the next four years, almost 60 percent of voters agree the move is necessary, no matter what union leaders say. Emergency austerity measures earlier this year provoked strikes in Greece and Spain, but the protests died down as people resigned themselves to the inevitability that lavish government spending had to stop. …