20101008 frenchstrike 18
People rally at the Bastille square in Paris, during a demonstration against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age. - 


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: France has been grappling with budget cuts as well. One of the ways the government says it can save some money is by raising the retirement age to 62. A vote could happen this week. The proposed hike in retirement age has caused a lot of workers to take to the streets. There've been riots in Paris and a blockade of France's largest oil port in Marseille. The BBC's European correspondent Matthew Price is outside Marseille airport where hundreds of workers earlier closed the access road. Hi Matthew.

MATTHEW PRICE: Good morning, Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: How disruptive have the strikes been so far?

PRICE: Well, at the airport they were pretty disruptive this morning for a couple of hours. All the flights still took off, even if it was more difficult for passengers to get to the terminal building. I don't think Americans, though, would accept what's been going on over here. The rubbish has been piling up in the streets in Marseille. The refuse workers have been on strike so there's the stink of decaying fruit and old coffee grounds around the city -- the old city. Ships and tankers are moored off shore on the crystal blue waters of the Med. They're at anchored. They are unable to get to the port because workers at port are on strike. The fuel depots are affected so many gas stations are closed. It's not a pretty picture.

CHIOTAKIS: Marseille, Matthew, has the country's biggest port. What's the impact on the French economy?

PRICE: Overall, President Sarkozy of France says it's pretty significant. And he fears that if this continues that jobs will be lost as a result. European countries, like the United States, have fuel reserves so France isn't about to grind to a halt. But this isn't good for the French image of course at a time when it would like to attract more foreign investment. All E.U. governments say they need to cut spending, so if the wider affect of these strikes is to derail the French policy of trying to cut their budgets then there could be a weakening of the markets view of the French economy as a whole.

CHIOTAKIS: The BBC's Matthew Price in Marseille. Matthew, thank you.

PRICE: Thanks, Steve.