Cost of living crisis tests striking French workers
Workers are trying to block overhaul of pension system
More strikes planned after Tuesday's stoppages
Higher living costs increase pain for striking workers
Unions seeking ways to limit strike impact on members' pay
By Layli Foroudi and Leigh Thomas
PARIS, Feb 1 (Reuters) -French railway worker Franck Viger-Brunet says he and his comrades have to count carefully the costs of going on strike to force President Emmanuel Macron to back down on plans to hike the retirement age by two years to 64.
"We pay for the days we strike. I have budgeted for the last month to be able to strike for a month (against this reform)... We've got to keep going," the 58-year-old CGT union member said at a march in Paris on Tuesday during a second nationwide strike against the reform.
In what could prove a prolonged standoff, unions and their members are seeking to minimise the impact on personal finances already strained by the worst cost of living crisis in decades.
For 55-year-old nursery worker Said Bellahecene that meant working on Tuesday morning in order to be able to go on strike in the afternoon to avoid losing a full day of wages.
"I've got two kids and rent to pay, but I'm ready to lose a few weeks (of pay) and bring the country to a halt rather than lose two years later (under the reform)," he said at the demo.
More than 1.2 million people took part in Tuesday's action, slightly more than in a first show of force on Jan. 19, though firms including state rail operator SNCF and state-controlled electricity group EDF reported fewer workers going on strike.
That means keeping up the pressure will be a challenge as the reform rumbles through parliament over the next two months.
While unions have so far displayed rare unity, hardline CGT leader Philippe Martinez raised the spectre of rolling strikes despite the financial sacrifice that means for many workers.
"The government wants to downplay the outrage, we've got to shift up a gear," Martinez said on France Inter radio on Wednesday.
So far unions have tried to space strikes out to minimise wage losses. The next strike is due only on Feb. 7 and unions have also called for nationwide demos on Saturday Feb. 11, which would allow more workers to protest without having pay docked.
French unions generally do not have permanent strike funds to help members cope, though some will set up occasional kitties financed by donations for a specific cause.
One notable exception is the CFDT, France's biggest union, whose members' dues help maintain a "union action" fund that BFM TV reported recently had swollen over the decades to 140 million euros ($152 million).
While it is generally used to cover legal fees and compensate workers in local strikes, members are now clamouring for it to help cover lost pay during the pension strikes.
"We're getting a tonne of questions about whether there will be some help," CFDT head for the public service Mylene Jacquot told Reuters.
The government says the pension overhaul, which includes plans to increase how long workers must pay into the system, is needed to keep it out of the red in the coming years.
But unions say the plans represent a brutal rolling back of cherished social rights and their opposition is widely supported by the broader public, opinion polls show.
However, even before the cost of living crisis, French unions have struggled to resist government reform plans in the decades since massive strikes in 1995 successfully forced a conservative government to drop a pension overhaul.
Nonetheless, strikes can still yield results as the energy sector saw at the end of last year when unions won wage increases with a series of work stoppages.
That sector is now leading calls for more strikes with the head of the CGT's energy branch, Fabrice Coudour, saying a new round was set for Feb. 6 to 8.
"We're motivated to go all the way until (the reform) is dropped," Coudour said.
($1 = 0.9182 euros)
Reporting by Layli Foroudi and Leigh Thomas, additional reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Dominique Vidalon; writing by Leigh Thomas
Editing by Gareth Jones
면책조항: XM Group 회사는 체결 전용 서비스와 온라인 거래 플랫폼에 대한 접근을 제공하여, 개인이 웹사이트에서 또는 웹사이트를 통해 이용 가능한 콘텐츠를 보거나 사용할 수 있도록 허용합니다. 이에 대해 변경하거나 확장할 의도는 없습니다. 이러한 접근 및 사용에는 다음 사항이 항상 적용됩니다: (i) 이용 약관, (ii) 위험 경고, (iii) 완전 면책조항. 따라서, 이러한 콘텐츠는 일반적인 정보에 불과합니다. 특히, 온라인 거래 플랫폼의 콘텐츠는 금융 시장에서의 거래에 대한 권유나 제안이 아닙니다. 금융 시장에서의 거래는 자본에 상당한 위험을 수반합니다.
온라인 거래 플랫폼에 공개된 모든 자료는 교육/정보 목적으로만 제공되며, 금융, 투자세 또는 거래 조언 및 권고, 거래 가격 기록, 금융 상품 또는 원치 않는 금융 프로모션의 거래 제안 또는 권유를 포함하지 않으며, 포함해서도 안됩니다.
이 웹사이트에 포함된 모든 의견, 뉴스, 리서치, 분석, 가격, 기타 정보 또는 제3자 사이트에 대한 링크와 같이 XM이 준비하는 콘텐츠 뿐만 아니라, 제3자 콘텐츠는 일반 시장 논평으로서 "현재" 기준으로 제공되며, 투자 조언으로 여겨지지 않습니다. 모든 콘텐츠가 투자 리서치로 해석되는 경우, 투자 리서치의 독립성을 촉진하기 위해 고안된 법적 요건에 따라 콘텐츠가 의도되지 않았으며, 준비되지 않았다는 점을 인지하고 동의해야 합니다. 따라서, 관련 법률 및 규정에 따른 마케팅 커뮤니케이션이라고 간주됩니다. 여기에서 접근할 수 있는 앞서 언급한 정보에 대한 비독립 투자 리서치 및 위험 경고 알림을 읽고, 이해하시기 바랍니다.