Sarkozy Braces for Union Battle
Pension cuts could trigger crippling strikes in president's first test of leadership
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2007 4:02 AM CDT
French President Nicolas Sarkozy gives a thumbs up sign after a meeting at the Elysee Palace, Thursday Aug. 23, 2007. President Nicolas Sarkozy returned from his summer vacation with a golden tan but...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy could face the first major obstacle of his four-month reign this week when he tries to slash the pensions of 500,000 workers who enjoy more generous retirement packages than other civil servants. Polls show Sarkozy's plan is supported by 65% of the public, but striking unions brought down Jacques Chirac's government in 1995 and could threaten do so again.

"There could be sport—and not just in the rugby stadiums," warned one union leader. The higher pensions are vestiges of a time when occupations like electrical worker were much more dangerous than other jobs. Rail workers, for example, can retire at 50 and collect half again as much pension as workers in comparable jobs. Sarkozy argues that the need for such hazard pay has passed.