No end in sight for strike as French govt offers pension compromise

PARIS (AFP) – A crippling French transport strike dragged into its 39th day yesterday despite the government’s offer to withdraw the most contested measure of the pension reform plans that sparked the protest.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Saturday he would drop plans to increase the official retirement age to 64 from 62 in an effort to end a strike which has paralysed Paris and its suburbs, with bus, train and metro services all badly disrupted.

“I am willing to withdraw from the bill the short-term measure I had proposed,” said Philippe, prompting his boss French President Emmanuel Macron to dub the change “a constructive and responsible compromise.”

The more reformist trade unions – the FDT, Unsa and FRC – welcomed the announcement and said they were now ready to work with employers on the sustainable financing of the state pension system.

However the more hardline CGT, FO and Solidaires unions were not moving an inch, calling for the strike and protests to continue, among them a major demonstration on January 16.

CGT head Philippe Martinez played down the impact of the CFDT and Unsa’s readiness to resume negotiations, and spoke of internal splits within these groups.

Strikers march during a demonstration in Marseille, southern France. PHOTO: AP