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Unions plan more strikes in Feb

Leaders meet today to plan demos, already convinced next week’s summit with President Sarkozy will not be a success.

FRANCE’S largest unions are planning a new day of demonstrations ahead of a meeting with President Sarkozy to discuss the state of the country’s economy.

The leader of the CGT union, Bernard Thibault, said the union leaders would meet today to plan the event, which would likely take place after a promised “summit” between unions and President Sarkozy on February 18.

Mr Thibault said: “The unions are all disappointed so we will be discussing a new day of interprofessional action. It will be after the meeting with the head of state – because there is no sign that we will come out of that with answers.”

Between 1.1 million and 2.5 million took to the streets on January 29 to voice their dissatisfaction at President Sarkozy’s handling of the economic crisis.

It was followed by a televised appearance by the president, who promised a range of new measures to help people cope, which he said he would discuss with the unions.

Mr Thibault said: “Nicolas Sarkozy wants to go on with his reforms, but the crisis has invalidated them, things have changed. For example, not replacing one in two civil servant posts as people retire is completely unsuitable.”

He added the president had so far announced nothing that would have real impact on people’s spending power. He said he had “nothing against” discussing changes to taxation, but this would not help people who are struggling now. The pressing issue was people’s salaries.

Mr Thibault said the president’s suggestion that firms should pass on profits to employees, not just to shareholders was “not uninteresting, but only concerns those firms that have shareholders.”

On February 18 he said he wanted to challenge some of the president’s actions such as the level of public aid given to firms and encouraging people to work overtime by making it untaxed.

He said the president listened to business more than unions – “(employers’ organisation) Medef asked on Thursday morning for him to remove the taxe professionnelle, and he announced it in the evening.”

Photo: Kenju-Baptiste Oikawa

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