Pensions: Emmanuel Macron Defends a “Historic” Reform, the Strike Continues this Weekend

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Emmanuel Macron defends a “historic” pension reform as the strike continues this weekend

The government continues to defend its pension reform while the strike continues in particular in transport to the SNCF and the RATP this weekend.

The executive was determined Friday 13th December 2019 to continue its pension reform, “historic” according to Emmanuel Macron, while sparing an opening towards the most moderate unions, on the eve of the tenth day of a transport strike who does not show signs of shortness of breath.

“It is a refounding reform above all else,” said the President of the Republic, referring to a project “historic for the country”, in response to insistent questions at a press conference in Brussels. The head of state had remained very discreet since the movement began on December 5th.

Stinging response from one of the leaders of the dispute, Yves Veyrier, number one of FO, on BFMTV: “The president tends to make history before it has happened. I think we should avoid a historical error ”.

During his brief speech, Emmanuel Macron assured not to carry out a reform “above all budgetary”.

Yet this is where the shoe pinches. Since the announcement by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe of an “equilibrium age” at 64 , below which we will not touch his full retirement, the first French union, the CFDT, but also the CFTC and Unsa , are furious.

They called to demonstrate next Tuesday at the same time as the inter-union CGT / FO / CFE-CGC / Solidaires / FSU and four youth organizations, which demand the outright withdrawal of the project.

Edouard Philippe “is not afraid to lead this reform”

Asked Friday evening during a debate with teachers, near NancyEdouard Philippe assured that he was “absolutely not afraid to (lead) this reform”, “nor reactions”, despite the demonstrations and strikes.

However, the discussion is still possible. The “reformist” unions (CFDT, CFTC, Unsa and the students of Fage), favourable to the principle of a universal pension system by points, were invited to discussions in Matignon, “as soon as possible next week”, to evoke “the establishment of the minimum pension, the arduousness, the progressive retirement and the accompaniment of the transitions towards the universal system”.

Will Jean-Paul Delevoye, the government’s “Monsieur pensions”, take part in this umpteenth consultation? Weakened by accusations of conflict of interest with the world of insurance and a combination of functions prohibited by the Constitution, the High Commissioner did not rule out resigning to preserve the reform.

“Progress” for police, fears for teachers

The teachers’ unions were also welcomed by the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, who attended a debate on retirement with teachers on Friday night in Nancy, with Philippe. “It was a dense and frank meeting,” but “we still need clarification,” Stéphane Crochet, Secretary General of SE-Unsa, told AFP after leaving the ministry.

The teachers are afraid of losing a big part of their pensions with the reform.

The police, however, received confirmation Friday from the Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner that they could retire earlier thanks to the consideration of the “dangerousness” of their profession.

Stretching in length, the strike had an impact on many sectors, in particular in Ile-de-France.

With the approach of the end of year celebrations, Parisian merchants – still marked by the crisis of “yellow vests” last year – are particularly worried by the disaffection of customers. And public hospitals in Paris have announced that they could de-schedule non-emergency procedures, “in order to avoid the exhaustion of staff”.

Busy platforms Gare de Lyon in Paris on December 12, 2019.
Busy platforms Gare de Lyon in Paris on December 12, 2019. (© AFP / Bertrand GUAY)

Transportation hassle

Because the difficulties continue for Ile-de-France users: RATP traffic will once again be “very disrupted” on Saturday, with nine metro lines closed, and even promises to be “extremely reduced” on Sunday.

Also on the SNCF site, traffic should remain very disrupted all weekend, with one TGV out of four, one Transilien out of six, and three TER out of ten (insured “essentially” by coach).

In the medium term, the prospect of seeing the trains run normally for the Christmas holidays is getting more and more distant.

“The question is not whether there will be trains at Christmas, but how many,” according to an official at SNCF headquarters. To give travellers a minimum of visibility, management has in any case planned to display on December 19 the “guaranteed trains” that will run from 23rd to 26th.

This question is of concern to the government: the Prime Minister was to bring together on his return from Nancy Friday in Matignon the Minister for the Ecological Transition Élisabeth Borne, his Secretary of State for Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari and the bosses of SNCF and RATP to “Take stock of the optimal organization that could be adopted during the holidays”.

For the CGT, “it is the government which, by its obstinacy, wants to compromise the holidays and the holiday season”.

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