France Prime Minister defies unions with pension overhaul

France Prime Minister defies unions with pension overhaul

Many French people and the unions leading the strikes fear the new system will force people to work longer for smaller pension allocations.

Macron argues the reforms are needed to keep the pension system from sinking into billions of euros of debt as life spans lengthen and to make the system fairer to all workers, not just those in certain professions.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday warned parliamentarians of the ruling party to prepare for a long road ahead, minimizing The prospect of rapid progress.

Though demonstrators were less numerous, strike action was expected to maintain its crippling strength Wednesday with little improvement in sight.

Unions are calling for a fresh day of national protests next Tuesday.

"There is no hidden agenda", Mr Philippe said, adding that while some people might disagree with the reforms, the plan was part of the government's "ambition of social justice".

Philippe sought to reassure workers in sectors that enjoy earlier retirement or more generous pensions that the changes would be gradual.

Striking workers blocked seven of France's eight petrol refineries Tuesday, but the government said there had been no impact on petrol supplies.

The leader of the prominent CGT workers' union, Philippe Martinez, flatly rejected the new plans.

"The implementation of the new universal system will mean the end of specific regimes", Philippe continued, claiming that women would be the big winners of the new system.

His union's rail arm said the proposals were "not up to the mark" and should "encourage workers to strengthen the strike".

France raised the official retirement age in the past decade from 60 to 62, but it remains one of the lowest among the OECD group of rich nations - in the United Kingdom, for example, the retirement age for state pensions is 66 and is due to rise to at least 67.

While the government is trying to make the pensions system sustainable and simpler, it is facing huge public pressure, including a week of the most debilitating transport strikes in decades.

France's famously militant unions have sounded an uncompromising note, insisting they will not call off the strike unless the reform is scrapped outright.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, told French radio that 12.5% of elementary school teachers observed the strike, far less than the 51% registered when the industrial action began on Thursday.

Julien Sergere, a 38-year-old teacher who marched in Paris, told AFP he was anxious that a proposal to standardise the way pensions are calculated would leave teachers poorer.

Nine out of Paris' 16 metro lines were offline, five offered reduced services, and the only two driverless lines kept to their usual schedule though with a high risk of congestion, according to operator RATP.

Alain Krakovitch, CEO of the SNCF suburban rail network urged commuters to avoid rail travel "for security reasons".

The SNCF national rail service said almost three-quarters of its drivers had gone on strike on Tuesday, heavily disrupting traffic in Paris.

Related Articles