France's Parliament passed final approval of a bill on Wednesday that has sparked a great controversy. The bill, that raised the retirement age from 60 to 62, has garnered much dissatisfaction from the country's most powerful unions, sparking a series of protests and strikes (Doland). .
President Nicolas Sarkozy stood in favor of the bill, which ultimately resulted in his lowest approval ratings since he took office in 2007. The bill was passed with a 336-233 vote, although protestors are still hopeful that they can sway President Sarkozy's opinion before he signs the bill (Doland). Prime Minister Francois Fillion has urged for the country to stop the protests, saying that "the law of the Republic should now be respected by all" (RTE News).
To express their dissatisfaction, unions have planned a day of nationwide street demonstrations and strikes, which will affect travel. One third of the flights at Charles de Gaulle, Paris' main airport, are expected to be closed on Thursday, and half the flights at Orly airport will be shut down, according to France's civil aviation authority. A two-week train strike has already been underway. Because the nationwide protest day is catching the end of that strike, only a few trains will refuse to run on Thursday. French drivers are combating a substantial fuel shortage, as only a few refinery workers have returned to work. About one in five gas stations will remain closed, mostly around Paris and in western France. To add to the fuel shortage, dock workers have also gone on strike, leaving a line of oil tankers waiting to be unloaded (Doland).
Unions are especially disgruntled because they believed the low retirement age of 60 was a cornerstone of France's generous social benefit system. However, according to the government, lifespan is increasing in France, up to an average of 85 years for females and 78 years for men. With this increase, the pension program is in jeopardy without the reform (Doland).