The head of France's prominent CGT trade union called for a large turnout in a national day of protest next month against the government's latest round of deficit-cutting measures.
Five major unions reached an agreement late on Thursday to hold marches on Oct. 11, urging President Nicolas Sarkozy to focus on growth after his government announced 12 billion euros of austerity measures.
The government has largely steered clear of painful spending cuts in 2012 and has made up most of the shortfall by getting rid of tax exemptions and introducing a special tax on the rich.
"As far as we're concerned, we will do everything we can to make sure (the turnout) is on a high level," CGT chief Bernard Thibault told France Info radio. He said it was impossible to predict how many people would turn up.
Trade unions, still smarting from their defeat against the government in late 2010, were divided. Three abstained from joining the call to protest.
"There is hesitation among our partners over weather the conditions are there to bring about the desired reaction (to the protests)," Thibault said.
CFDT, France's largest trade union, did not break ranks with CGT but was unwilling to call for massive mobilisation.
In a show of force by trade unions, hundreds of thousands protested against pension reform in late 2010 and there were blockages at several oil refineries.
But the showdown led to few concessions from Sarkozy, who pushed a two-year increase in the retirement age through parliament.
Thibault, who pushed for a hard-line approach during last year's protest, said the government deserved "not an AAA but a triple zero" for its deficit-cutting programme, which he called "dangerous" for growth.
ReutersLast Mod: 02 Eylül 2011, 18:00