Macron insists pension reform is necessary as protests, strikes press on
In a letter to trade unions released on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 was necessary to keep the French pension system financially viable in the coming years. sustainable.
The move comes after more than 1 million demonstrators marched through French towns this week as train and subway drivers, refinery workers and others began open-ended strikes against plans by the centrist government.
The union called for more protests on Saturday. They are calling for the withdrawal of a bill that is being debated in the French Senate this week.
According to the letter provided by the president’s office, Macron said he chose to “let the French work longer” because other options he rejected would involve “reduced pensions, higher taxes or the economic burden being carried by our children and grandchildren.”
Francois Hommeril, the union leader of the CFE-CGC, which represents workers in the energy sector, said on Friday that Macron’s letter appeared to be another “miss” for the president to pursue reforms while listening to workers concerned. good opportunity”.
French broadcaster BFM TV quoted Hommeril as saying the president “acted as if the social movement didn’t exist”. “I am very disappointed and concerned by (Macron’s) reaction,” he added.
Opinion polls consistently show a majority of French people against the change. Lawmakers on the left argue that corporations and the wealthy should fund more of the pension system.
Macron also recalled that the measure was a key pledge of his presidential campaign last year, adding that he had made a concession by agreeing to lower the age limit to 64 from the originally planned 65.
“You have strongly expressed your dissent,” Macron wrote to the union. “I would not underestimate the discontent … and the anxiety expressed by many French who fear they will never receive any pension.”
Meanwhile, the government on Friday called for a special procedure in the Senate to speed up debate by organizing a vote on the entire bill, rather than on each amendment and clause.
Fabrice Coudour, leader of influential trade union CGT Energy, said the government’s apparent decision to push the bill through the Senate would “deepen” anger among French workers. He called on strikers and opponents of retirement reform to take to the streets Saturday to air their displeasure.
The Senate, dominated by Republican members, is expected to approve the bill. Conservative senators have been pushing for years to raise the minimum retirement age.
If the bill is approved by the Senate, it will continue through France’s complex legislative process next week.