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Union Uprising: Million French Workers Take to Streets Protesting Pension Reform

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Demonstrations continue in Europe as the continent's leaders turn to unpopular reforms to fix its problems. The sharp dissension resulting from those reforms could be seen today in France, as French unions lead a charge against the government's recent pension-reform announcement.

According to the Wall Street Journal, French unions took to the streets on Thursday to protest a plan that will raise the retirement age to 62 from the current 60. The unions also spearheaded a massive strike.

France's National Assembly adopted the bill last week that it says will bring EUR20 billion of savings by 2020 and will balance the books of the failing pension system by 2018. France's projected public debt this year is 7.8 percent of GDP.

That doesn't seem to matter to union leaders. The WSJ reports that Bernard Thibault, leader of the Communist-leaning union Confederation generale du travail (CGT) threatened that the government could face a new phase of conflict if it doesn't budge on the pension overhaul.

The protests and strikes, the second massive demonstration this month, are affecting the country's transportation network. Only 50 percent of high-speed trains and regional trains were running Thursday, and national air carrier Air France-KLM said it had to cancel half of it short and medium-haul flights out of Paris.

The French demonstrations could be yet another example of reform unrest in Europe. Demonstrators -- most notably in Greece -- have been opposing such efforts ever since it became clear that an over-dependence on government aid would be unsustainable.

According to the French Interior Ministry, there were about 410,000* demonstrators at 110 rallies across the country. Still, the French government does not show signs of budging on the new proposal.

UPDATE:

*Reuters is now reporting that the number of those protesting has reached close to 1 million.

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