French strikes cost 200 to 400 million euros a day: minister

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A wave of strikes and protests by workers defending their right to retire at 60 has cost France between 200 and 400 million euros per day, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said Monday.

Speaking to Europe 1 radio, Lagarde also said the dispute and the media images of street battles between police and protesters broadcast around the world had cost France dearly in terms of its image.

"Today, we shouldn't be weighing down this recovery with campaigns that are painful for the French economy and very painful for a certain number of small and medium-sized businesses," she complained.

According to an official from Lagarde's ministry, quoted in the right wing daily Le Figaro, each of a series of eight one-day stoppages called by unions protesting the law has cost the economy between 200 and 400 million euros.

This amounts to a total so far of between 1.6 and 3.2 billion euros (2.25 and five billion dollars), to which must be added the cost of parallel open-ended strikes in several industries, including the key fuel sector.

Students have called for a new day of protest on Tuesday and trade unions have called for a one-day nationwide strike on Thursday, despite goverment's hope that half-term holidays would take the steam out of the movement.

Lawmakers from the National Assembly are expected to formally pass the final version of the pensions reform billon on Wednesday, and Sarkozy will enact it and place it in the official gazette in mid-November.

Meanwhile, petrol shortages caused by refinery strikes and fuel depots continue, with around a quarter of filling stations nationwide having run out of at least one fuel product.

© 2010 AFP

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