• Monday, Feb 17, 2020
  • Last Update : 09:09 am

French unions face moment of truth in fight over pensions

  • Published at 12:13 am January 25th, 2020
French unions
Protesters march in a street of Paris during a demonstration against the government pensions reform on January 24, 2020 AFP

The reform would sweep away 42 separate regimes, some dating back hundreds of years

French protesters prepared to hit the streets on Friday for a fresh day of demonstrations against the  government's pension reform, which will be officially unveiled after weeks of strikes by unions warning that millions of people will have to work longer. 

Union leaders themselves acknowledge it is a now-or-never moment before the draft law heads to parliament, where President Emmanuel Macron's party holds a majority and is widely expected to push through the overhaul by summer.

In Paris, protesters will march through the city to a square a stone's throw from the Elysee Palace, where ministers will meet to officially unveil the reform.

"We're going to show that faced with this acceleration, this stubbornness by the government, ours is just as strong," Yves Veyrier of the hard-line Force Ouvriere (FO) union told France Info radio on Thursday.

It will be the seventh day of mass rallies since a crippling transport strike was launched on December 5 by unions hoping to force Macron to back down on his push for a "universal" pension system.

The reform would sweep away 42 separate regimes, some dating back hundreds of years, that offer early retirement and other benefits to public-sector workers as well as lawyers, physiotherapists and even Paris Opera employees.

But critics say the new points-based system will effectively force millions of people to work longer, even though the government has temporarily dropped a plan to push back the age for a full pension to 64 from 62.

Metro traffic in the capital was again seriously disrupted on Friday, the 51st day of strikes, though services had almost returned to normal this week as unions shifted their focus to power cuts, port blockades and other protests.

Rail traffic was less affected, with most TGV and international trains operating as normal, and a majority of regional trains still running.

But the Eiffel Tower will again be shut for the day as some workers join the protests, the company operating the monument said.