September 12, 2007

JUST DON'T TURN INTO A NEWT:

Sarkozy Faces His First Reform Test: Labor unions will likely strike against proposed pension reforms, but the general public seems to support the new President's push. (Carol Matlack, 9/11/07, Der Spiegel)

If anything, the potential for crippling nationwide strikes looks greater now than ever. The beneficiaries of the pension plans that Sarkozy is targeting are employees of the national rail system, the Paris transit authority, and utilities Electricité de France and Gaz de France. The President can't stop them from walking off the job: France's constitution guarantees the right to strike, and while Sarkozy recently secured legislation to reduce strike-related disruptions by requiring advance notice of walkouts, the law won't take effect until next year.

Yet Sarkozy's move may be shrewder than it looks. Opinion polls show overwhelming support for reform of retirement schemes for railway and utility workers that let them retire as early as age 50 with pensions totaling 70% of their top salaries. In a poll by the CSA survey group in June, 56% of respondents said they wanted these so-called "special regimes" reformed quickly.

That's not surprising: The special plans are holdovers from the days when railway and utility jobs were far more dangerous and dirty than they are now. And they're considerably more generous than the pension benefits enjoyed by most French private-sector workers, who generally can't retire before age 60. Moreover, French taxpayers help foot the bill for this largesse, even as worrisome deficits grow in other government-funded retirement funds.

But wouldn't Sarkozy be forced to back down, in case of a protracted strike? That is what happened in 1995, when public opinion turned against the government even though polls showed most people favored its pension reform proposals.


They're handing him a great opportunity, one Thatcher and Reagan seized but Gingrich fumbled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 12, 2007 8:40 AM
Comments

I forget: what union did Newt fumble busting?

Posted by: Twn at September 12, 2007 10:08 AM

The union with his wife.

Posted by: erp at September 12, 2007 11:43 AM

The Clinton Machine

(and don't forget it was Dole who blinked first.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 12, 2007 12:15 PM

If Sark turns into a newt, it will get better.

Posted by: ghostcat at September 12, 2007 12:48 PM

Newt had the entire bureaucracy laid off, but blew it. The Majority leader can't hold his troops in line the way the House leadership can.

Posted by: oj at September 12, 2007 12:53 PM
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