PARIS (AFP) – France’s prime minister yesterday ruled out backtracking on a plan to raise the retirement age as unions prepared for another day of mass protests against the contested reform.
An increase in the minimum retirement age to 64 from the current 62 is part of a flagship reform package pushed by President Emmanuel Macron to ensure the future financing of France’s pensions system.
After union protests against the change brought out over a million people into the streets on January 19, the government signalled there was wiggle room on some measures, including the number of contributing years needed to qualify for a full pension, special deals for people who started working very young, and provisions for mothers who interrupted their careers to look after their children.
But the headline age limit of 64 was not up for discussion, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said yesterday.
“This is now non-negotiable,” she told the FranceInfo broadcaster.
While unions welcomed the government’s readiness for negotiation on parts of the plan, they said the proposed 64-year rule has to go.
Calling the reform “unfair” France’s eight major unions, in a rare show of unity, said they hoped to “mobilise even more massively” tomorrow, their next scheduled protest day, than at the showing earlier this month.
Unions and the government both see tomorrow’s protests as a major test.
Some 200 protests are being organised countrywide, with a big march planned for Paris, culminating in a demonstration outside the National Assembly where parliamentary commissions start examining the draft law today.
The leftwing opposition submitted over 7,000 amendments to the draft in a bid to slow its path through Parliament.
Macron’s allies are short of an absolute majority in Parliament and will need votes from conservatives to approve the pensions plan.
The government has the option of forcing the bill through without a vote under special constitutional powers, but at the risk of triggering a vote of no confidence, and possibly new parliamentary elections.