French govt huddles as unions vow to harden strike
French officials met yesterday to set out their strategy ahead of fresh talks with unions furious over planned pension overhauls, with labour leaders warning of new strike actions alongside a gruelling transport strike now in its 30th day.
“The government is at work to try to find a way toward a rapid compromise,” spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye told France 2 television as Prime Minister Edouard Philippe gathered ministers for the unscheduled meeting. Unions have roundly rejected plans to scrap France’s 42 separate pension regimes for a single points-based system, which they say could require millions of people to work beyond the official retirement age of 62.
President Emmanuel Macron made the reform a key plank of his election campaign, saying it would be more transparent and fairer, in particular to low earners and women. Yet the government has already announced a series of concessions to certain sectors, such as police officers and military personnel, pilots and rail employees.
Many other public-sector workers are demanding similar exceptions to the new rules, which would set a “pivot age” of 64 which people would have to work until to receive a full pension. The hard-line CGT union has called for a four-day blockade of the country’s fuel refineries and depots starting Tuesday, when talks between unions and the government are to resume.
Two unions representing pilots and cabin crew at Air France have called a strike for next week, as have lawyers, physiotherapists and other self-employed workers who have separate -- and more advantageous -- pension schemes.
War of wills
Macron insisted during his traditional New Year’s Eve address that he would push ahead with the reform, which will be presented to his cabinet on January 22 ahead of parliamentary debate. He said the new system is needed because most people are starting their careers later, and are living longer.
But he promised that people with particularly arduous jobs would still be allowed to retire early, a main sticking point in the talks with unions, along with the new “pivot age” of 64 to qualify for a full pension.