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Pension plea sent to all French homes
June 17, 2003
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is sending a personal letter to every French household to explain why he is pushing ahead with his controversial pension reforms.
reforms have sparked weeks of strikes in France, seriously disrupting
education, transport and other parts of the public sector.
next wave of strikes and demonstrations is planned for Thursday as unions
maintain their opposition to the plans, which would force people to work
longer to claim a full pension.
Raffarin's letter pleads with voters to accept his argument that the
reforms are essential to cope with France's growing number of older people
and shrinking workforce.
also explains how workers will be affected if the system is not changed,
and makes the case for changing the system now rather than leaving the
problem for the next generation.
began debating the reforms last week, but are still bogged down on Article
1, as the opposition seeks to wear down the government's patience.
Raffarin has said he wants the reforms on the statute books before
parliament's summer recess, but the debate looks set to turn into a
Communists have tabled more than 6,000 amendments.
BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says the letter is a novel attempt to get
the nation on-side, after recent surveys showed that more than half the
French believe the government should negotiate with the unions.
it's not clear when the letter itself will arrive - as post office workers
are among those taking part in this week's strikes.
Raffarin's letter and a four-page leaflet which accompanies it have been
written with the help of an outside advertising agency, Publicis.
declare that it is "telling the truth" to the French, describing
the reforms are wise and fair.
am convinced I have protected your future without passing the problem on
to your children," Mr Raffarin says.
have been some signs that the unions' resolve is weakening. An open-ended
transport strike which began last Monday night appeared to have largely
faded by Thursday.
to counter the huge union protests, a demonstration of people opposed to
the strikes took place in Paris last weekend.
last attempt at pension reform in 1995 triggered a wave of protests that
helped to bring down the government.