From theGlobalReport | October 22, 2010
Al Jazeera reports that gas stations across France are running out of fuel as refinery and port workers continue a strike against the government’s plan to raise the retirement age. Around 1,500 gas stations attached to French shopping centers dried up by the beginning of the week.
Alexandre de Benoist, a senior official with Union of Independent Petroleum Importers, which represents the sector, said: “Twenty to 25 percent of our distribution capacity is either stopped or in trouble.”
He said the situation had serious implications in some regions with fuel distribution stations on strike or blockaded by workers from other sites.
THIERRY CORDIER, TRUCKERS’ FEDERATION OF THE CFDT UNION: “What we’re doing here is blockading of a company called Teolis, which is a subsidy of (state railways) SNCF which is running replacement bus services for the trains when our rail comrades are striking. It’s true that it’s going to impact people getting to school, but you don’t make omlettes without breaking eggs. The government is deaf, the government doesn’t want to hear anything, it doesn’t want to see anything. Well, it’s going to see what the street tells it.”
Nationwide strikes over the pension changes have spread to the country’s 12 oil refineries over the past week, adding to the impact of a three-week-long strike at France’s largest oil port, Fos-Lavera, over working conditions and a port overhaul.
Unions are stepping up action in the run-up to a senate vote on the pension bill with more major demonstrations expected.
A majority of the French support the protests against planned legislation to raise the minimum and full retirement ages by two years to 62 and 67 respectively, a measure the government says is the only way to rein in a growing pension deficit.
In recent days, the protests have intensified. Riot police arrested youths in the central French city of Lyon on October 19th, after they threw flames and projectiles at policemen, during one of several clashes across the country. Masked youths attacked parked cars, overturning and setting them on fire.
UNNAMED PROTESTER: “The reform isn’t completely passed, there are still chances, and even if it gets passed we can still fight, you should always fight.”
Workers who have contributed to France’s steadily increasing wealth over decades are enraged that Sarkozy is reneging on his campaign promise to not raise retirement age. READ MORE
/ Agence France Presse
From the Irish Times:
French police cleared access to the main refinery supplying fuel to Paris early today as unions hardened their stance ahead of a final vote on President Nicolas Sarkozy’s pension reform.
Signaling their determination to keep fighting even after a bill raising the retirement age becomes law, the country’s six main unions have called for two more days of action on October 28 and November 6 against the unpopular reform.
“The protests are not stopping, we just have different views on how to proceed,” Jean-Claude Mailly, head of the more radical Force Ouvriere union told RMC radio. “We still think that demonstrating is not enough … we have to ramp it up … we need a strong day of public and private sector strikes.”
By taking to the streets to defend their pension rights from regressive cuts, the French are fighting for all our benefits
Wednesday 20 October 2010 20.59 BST
A striker holds a CGT union flag as strikers block fuel storage depots to protest against pension reform in Frontignan, southern France. Photograph: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images
The demonstrations that have rocked France this past week highlight some of its differences from the United States. The photo here, for example shows the difference between rioting in baseball-playing versus soccer-playing countries. In the US, we would pick up the tear gas canister and throw it, rather than kick it, back at the police.
By PHILIPPE MARLIÈRE
When he entered the Elysée palace in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy dreamed of a glorious destiny. Enthusiastic commentators predicted that his casual populism would revamp the Bonapartist right, and that his Gallic brand of neoliberal policies would sell the “American dream” to a mistrustful population. Things have not gone according to plan. Sarkozy wanted to be the French JFK; today he looks more like Louis XVI awaiting trial in 1793. He may escape the guillotine, but his presidency is now under siege.
The French are deeply unhappy with the way they have been governed, but their main grievance is about pension reform, which is seen as a cynical ploy to make ordinary people work more for inferior entitlements, while bailed-out bankers and the rich get tax rebates and continue to enjoy the high life. Over the past month, six national demonstrations have gathered together an estimated average of 3.5 million per action day. The latest, on Tuesday, was again a big success.
The movement is popular: 69% of the nation back the strikes and demonstrations; 73% want the government to withdraw the reform. And high school pupils have now joined the fray. Over 1,000 high schools are on strike as the youngsters take to the streets to protest against mass unemployment and the raising of the retirement age. The government has patronisingly labelled them as “manipulated kids”, but these comments have backfired and served only to galvanise the young, who have hardened their resistance and taken further interest in the reform. When interviewed by the media, pupils come across as articulate and knowledgable. Parents worry about their children’s future, so they will not stop them from striking.
By TARIQ ALI
France is grinding to a standstill as millions of workers and students erupt in the streets at the government’s prposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. Across the Channel, the new Tory Chancellor has announced savage cuts in public expenditures that will slice away more than a million jobs, drive workers out of south east England and doom the country to years of austerity (unequally imposed, bien sur.) Yet the response has been muted.
A few years ago, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy told an interviewer that he knew the French better than most. Today, he confided, they were admiring the good looks of his wife; tomorrow they would cut his throat. It hasn’t quite come to that just yet, but the French – students and workers, men and women, citizens all – are out on the streets again. A rise in the pension age? Impossible. The barricades are up, oil supplies running out, trains and planes on a skeleton schedule and the protests are still escalating. More than three million people a week ago. Hundreds of thousands out this week, a million yesterday, and more expected this weekend. And what a joyous sight: school students marching in defense of old people’s rights. Were there a Michelin Great Protest guide, France would still be top with three stars, with Greece a close second with two stars.
What a contrast with the miserable, measly actions being planned by the lily-livered English trade unions. There is growing anger and bitterness here too, but it is being recuperated by a petrified bureaucracy. A ritual protest has been planned, largely to demonstrate that they are doing something. But is this something better than nothing?
From The Independent:
John Lichfield: President Sarkozy vows to crush petrol blockades crippling country.
From Barack Obama as the Angel of Death to accusations of Tea Party witchcraft – the midterm election propaganda battle has stooped to new lows
By David Usborne
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
With two weeks until midterm elections that promise to leave the Democrats battered and probably deprived of their majority in the House of Representatives, voters are yearning for the return of TV ads about cars and cat food. That’s because the blizzard of political spots they are seeing now is arguably the most consistently nasty ever.
It seems especially relentless in this election year because of recent relaxation by the US Supreme Court of funding rules, giving corporations free range to donate money to issue advocacy groups – and to do so anonymously. With that money those groups can run ads favoring one or another candidate in races.
A record $3bn (£2bn) will have been spent on advertising by the time voters enter the booths on 2 November by candidates and by outside organizations. By a 5 to 1 ratio, they have been funding spots that favor Republicans over Democrats.