20101019 france pension 18
Protesters demonstrate at the Vieux Port in Marseille as part of a national day of mass rallies against pension reform. - 


STEVE CHITOAKIS: French public sector workers have taken to the streets, protesting the government's plan to reform pensions. That includes raising the retirement age by two years. Marketplace Europe correspondent Stephen Beard is with us live to explain. Hi Stephen.


CHIOTAKIS: Who's striking? What's the impact there?

BEARD: A whole sway of public sector workers are on strike and the major casualty has been transportation. The country has not been paralyzed yet, but transportation has been seriously disrupted. Some 2,000 gas stations around the country are reported to have run dry. Another 600 will do so by the end of today, largely because of a strike at the country's 12 oil refineries. Drivers are panic buying too, and that's not helping matters. Fuel shortages and strike action have also affected air travel. Half the flights in and out of Paris Orly Airport, for example, have been canceled.

CHIOTAKIS: Any effect on the French government, Stephen?

BEARD: Not yet. You'd think it might. The way you get a government to listen is you grab it by its oil refineries and squeeze. But the French government says it's standing firm, that in order to cut its budget deficit and put the pension system on a sustainable path, it really has to raise the minimum age of retirement from 60 to 62 and the full state pension age from 65 to 67. The final vote on this in the Senate has been delayed, but the government says it will go through before the end of the week.

CHIOTAKIS: That same song playing all across Europe too. Stephen Beard joining us from London. Stephen, thanks.

BEARD: OK Steve.