Chris Latham

Workers and students mobilised in their millions on October 12 in the fourth and largest day of action in the past month against laws that will reduce workers’ pension entitlements. The protests and strikes came as the Senate passed aspects of the pension bill that will see an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 years of age and increase the period of time workers must work to receive a full pension. The protests show growing polarisation over who should pay the price for the economic crisis in the lead up to national strikes on October 16 and 19.
Workers and students mobilised in their millions on October 12 in the fourth and largest mobilisation in the last month against laws that will reduce the pension entitlements of French workers. The protests and strikes come the French Senate has begun passing aspects of the pension bill that will see an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 years of age and increase the qualifying period that workers must work to receive a full pension.
On September 14, the French Senate passed legislation that will make the wearing of either a burqa or niqab — Islamic dress worn by some Muslim women that covers the face — illegal in public. The ban was motivated by President Nicolas Sarkozy as an important step in winning equality for women. Opponents of the ban labeled it racist, but, importantly, it is also fundamentally sexist.
More than 2.7 million workers joined protests across France on September 7. The strikes and protests marked the start of a parliamentary debate over the new pension bill that will dramatically cut workers’ pensions. The protests were called by coalition of six of France’s Union Confederations.
Thousands of workers across France protested on May 27 against President Nicholas Sarkozy’s planned attacked on the French pension system. The protests were called by a coalition of union confederations, including the General Confederation of Labour (CGT); French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT); United Union Federation (FSU); National Union of Autonomous Unions and Solidaires. They came after the government failed to withdraw or modify the planned changes to the pension system following protests on March 23 and May 1.
Laws punishing women for wearing the burqa and the niqab in public were passed by the Belgian lower house of parliament on April 29. A similar law has been discussed by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and the French National Assembly passed a non-binding resolution in favour of a ban on May 11. These laws have been pushed by right-wing governments on the basis of security needs and protecting national identity, but the laws have also been justified as promoting equality for women. On this basis, the laws have received support from sections of the left and the feminist movement.

French voters have dealt a blow to right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first and second rounds of voting in the French regional elections. The opposition Socialist Party (PS) expanded its control of regional presidencies to 23 of the 26 regions, based on a record voting percentage in the second round on March 21. There were mixed results for parties to the left of the PS, and also a resurgence of the far-right National Front (FN). The elections have been marred by record-low voter turnout, with 46.5% and 51% of voters taking part in the two rounds.

On October 6, BHP Billiton and the South Australian Department for Correctional Services announced a new agreement allowing the company to employ prisoners from Port Augusta at Olympic Dam — the world’s biggest uranium mine.
French people have sent a strong message to the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy with 90% of voters in a referendum organised by anti-privatisation campaigners rejecting plans to partially privatise the national postal service, La Poste.
French courts have sentenced six workers to suspended sentences of between three and six months as a consequence of union protests in April against Continental’s decision to close its tyre plant in Clairox.

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