Scattered fuel shortages rattled drivers, and officials at France's main airport warned that some flights must arrive with enough fuel to get back home as hundreds of thousands of people marched Saturday for the fifth time in a month to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62.This is what happens when you treat the populace as children who must be provided for by the government. They won't understand that the gravy train can't run indefinitely - the money isn't there, yet they don't care. What will happen when such changes have to be made in places like California or New York? We haven't had such a paralyzing general strike here in the U.S. in decades. Do you think that our politicians have the nerve to deal with hundreds of thousands of striking protesters in the streets demanding that they get the generous pension benefits that they have been promised? We'll see if Sarkozy has the guts to continue in the face of these waves of protests and strikes. He has Greece's example to give steel to his spine.
Frequent strikes in the past few weeks have hobbled French trains and airports, closed schools and docks, and left garbage piling up in the southern port of Marseille.
And now the airline industry is getting worried, after all of France's 12 fuel-producing refineries went on strike, forcing police to be called in Friday to reopen three main depots. The Civil Aviation Authority sent out an advisory Friday night to airlines requiring short- and medium-haul flights to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport - one of Europe's key hubs - to arrive with enough fuel to get home, spokesman Eric Heraud said.
"They must come with a maximum capacity in their fuel tanks," he said. "Obviously, these instructions apply only to short- and medium-haul flights" of less than four or five hours because transatlantic flights cannot "double carry" fuel....
Countries across Europe are cutting spending and raising taxes to bring down deficits and debts after the 2008 financial crisis resulted in the worst recession in 70 years. Labor leaders, students and civil servants are fighting back.
These protests are "an attempt to say stop abusing the workers and citizens," Christian Coste, head of the CGT Union at Total's La Mede refinery, told Associated Press Television News on Saturday. "We are not here to bring France to its knees and create a shortage. We are here to make ourselves heard."
Workers have been striking for five days straight at the La Mede refinery in southern France.
Sarkozy's pension overhaul - especially raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 - are seen by unions as an attack on their near-sacred social protections. Yet the government says it is the only way to save the money-draining pension system and insists French workers must work longer because they are living longer.
Even at 62, France would have one of the lowest retirement ages in Europe.
And we have both examples to steel ours.