International

‘No Christmas break’ in transport strike, French union warns

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France's CGT union said on Thursday there would be no break in transport strikes over the Christmas period unless the government backed down on pension reform.

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"No Christmas break unless the government comes to its senses," Laurent Brun, head of CGT's railway branch, said on the Franceinfo radio station.

His comments come a day after Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said French people needed to work two years longer to get a full pension, drawing a hostile response from trade unions who said they would step up strike action to force an about-turn.

In a speech that followed days of protests and industrial action, Philippe outlined an overhaul of France's pension system that he claimed would be fairer and plug a gaping deficit in the pension budget.

The legal retirement age would remain at 62, Philippe said, but workers would be encouraged to work until 64 through a system of bonuses and discounts. That would allow a balanced pension budget by 2027, he said.

The reform-minded CFDT union, which until now has stayed out of the strikes, said a "red line" had been crossed and that it was calling on members to join mass protests on December 17.

Fair reform

The moderate CFDT's entry into the industrial action marks a perilous escalation for President Emmanuel Macron, just as more hardline unions show no sign of backing down in a battle of political will that could make or break his presidency.

Defying union anger, Philippe said France would replace a convoluted system of more than 42 separate state-funded plans with a universal, points-based system.

"The time has come to build a universal pension system," the prime minister said in a much-anticipated speech. "I am determined to see this reform through because I believe it to be fair."

He showed some flexibility to unions over the timing, saying anyone within 17 years of retirement would be exempt – a longer period than the five years initially envisaged.

There would be a minimum pension of €1,000 ($1,102) per month for those who worked a full career, Philippe added.

For people entering the workforce, the reforms will only start to apply in 2022, which happens to be the last year of Macron's term.

A joke

Macron and his government will hope to create tangible benefits unRead More – Source