French strike continues despite government concession on age: RFI

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A striking French worker holds a portrait of French President Emmanuel Macron as King Louis XVI at a demonstration against pensions reform plans, Paris, 9 January 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The strike against pension reform is now into its seventh week, and is still causing major delays on to Paris public transport system. Despite an offer from the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to withdraw the age limit of 64 to qualify for a full pension, most trade unions say the protest will continue, RFI reports.

The strike goes on. The national high-speed rail network was back to “nearly normal” on Monday, according to the SNCF train company, with 80 percent of TGVs running. Seven of ten local services were back in business, but only 40 percent of intercity trains.

Things are officially “getting better” in Paris, but that means roughly half the normal number of long-distance suburban trains, and a greatly reduced service in the metro.

The forecast for Tuesday is for another day of major complication for the capital’s commuters.

Offer falls on deaf ears

In a letter published at the weekend, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe offered to “provisionally withdraw” the question of the so-called “pivot age” from the retirement pension reform bill to be presented to parliament next month.

The government originally insisted that, to make retirement self-financing, the French would have to work longer to qualify for a full pension. The new law would move the current departure age of 62 years, to 64.

That age limit has been one of the major sticking points in the dispute.

The government offer has a sting in the tail: the 64-year limit will be withdrawn, leaving the trade unions until the end of April to propose a different way of ensuring that the pension system becomes self-financing by 2027.

Without reform the retirement budget will be, in the best-case scenario, at least 8 billion euros in debt by 2025 – in the worst case, 17 billion euros in the red.

The new deal is simple: there’ll be a second reading of the reform bill in May, at which stage the government will add in the solution proposed by the trade unions.

If there is no such magic formula, the government will make its own decision about how to ensure financial equilibrium. “I will face up to my responsibilities,” the prime minister said.

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