Low turnout for latest French pension protest

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Twenty-seven thousand French people had turned out by Tuesday midday for street protests against President Nicolas Sarkozy's pensions reforms that became law two weeks ago, interior ministry officials said.

Millions had taken to the streets in recent months to try to stop the right-wing leader from raising retirement age from 60 to 62, but the reform bill was eventually passed by parliament.

Tuesday's demonstrations were called to show that "the law on pensions does not put an end to debate and to mobilisations about retirement," said CGT union leader Bernard Thibault.

Sarkozy boasted earlier this month that his fiercely-contested decision to raise the retirement age had saved the country's state pay-as-you-go pensions system.

The law is seen by Sarkozy as the most important reform of his mandate.

Its key measures increase the minimum pensionable retirement age from 60 to 62 and the minimum threshold for receiving a full state pension for workers who have not completed 41 years of contributions to 67 from 65.

The measures will come into effect gradually from July next year, and be fully enacted by 2018, in a reform that Sarkozy's supporters argue will save tens of billions of euros for the social security account.

The law, a key part of Sarkozy's reform agenda as he eyes re-election in 2012, sparked weeks of strikes and mass protests last month, and triggered longer-lasting strikes in some key sectors causing fuel shortages.

© 2010 AFP

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