French unions plan pension reform protest

FRANCE – France’s unions are preparing to take to the streets this Thursday to protest about the country’s pension system and reforms.

Saturday saw the first consultation between the government and the unions on the financing of pension reform. According to the French press the meeting ended in complete disagreement.

For public sector workers, the government has proposed that working life should be raised from 37.5 years to 40 years in order to qualify for a full pension, but the government has not heeded union requests to raise the working life for the private sector as well.

Two weeks ago Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, the head of France’s employers’ organisation, Medef, threatened to step down if the government does not address the issue of pensions for those outside the public sector. Medef wants working lives in the private sector raised to 41 from 40 years.

Unions are calling for workers to protest once again on Thursday April 4 – the last demonstration was on February 1 when more than 300,000 workers took to the streets in protest. Says Bernhard Thibault, head of the CGT, one of France’s seven unions: “The government listened to, but did not hear our hopes for reform. Until the government takes measures, we are obliged to keep returning to say ‘here is what we want’.”

On April 11 the government is set to present the first proposals of reform to the social partners, after which there will be four days of consultation with the unions.

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