French Strikes: Macron calls a ‘Temporary Halt’ to his pension reforms but the people will not stand down.

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LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP

‘La mobilisation’ the French strike against pension reforms continue after Macron makes a temporary climb down.

With clouds of tear gas and smashed store windows punctuating the urban landscape of France, the French government made their first major concession on Saturday backing down to the unions protesting its pension reform plan. Macron has temporarily Scraped his proposal to raise the retirement age in France but the people and unions are not buying it. 

Faced with an unrelenting protest over proposed changes in France’s pension system, officials withdraw a move to raise the full-benefit retirement age to 64 from the present 62.

The French governments climb down shows that ‘People Power’ is a force to be reckoned with. Alongside the organised backing from the unions and other movements, the people of France have forced the government to temporarily halt the pension reforms.

However with millions striking over Macron’s pension reforms the anti-government demonstrators once again showed their dismay and anger as they paraded through the streets of Paris and other cities, the people are determined not to back down until the reforms are not just halted but scrapped. 

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe offered a major concession to unions after trade groups took to the streets for a fifth straight day of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s overhaul of the pension system.

The prime minister said in a letter to unions and employers that he was ready to make an offer to unions, on the basis of a compromise, after talks on Friday.

He said he was ready to withdraw his proposal to raise the retirement for full pension benefits by two years to 64, under certain conditions. The new, extended retirement age would have been implemented from 2027.

“To demonstrate my confidence in the social partners … I am willing to withdraw from the bill the short-term measure I had proposed.”

He delivered the message as thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Paris and other major cities in France. The trade unions and their allies have called on the government to withdraw its plans to raise the standard retirement age, using mass protests that have blocked rail traffic and curbed access to public transportation since December 5.

But today the People and the unions are determined to continue the fight until the bill is withdrawn completely. Once again the streets of France are full of angry citizens who have endured a regime of brutality and suppression for over a year.

We’ve got to continue to mobilize, until they pull the whole plan, pure and simple

“We’ve got to continue to mobilize, until they pull the whole plan, pure and simple,” Eric Coquerel, a representative in Parliament and a leading voice in the far-left France Unbowed party, told French television Saturday afternoon, as police sirens blared in the background

The French people refuse to give in to Macrons reforms and attacks on the unions, workers rights and welfare reforms.

No protest have see an alarming rise in state violence, the same violent that Macrons regime as carried out on the on the ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests) protest movement.

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Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

The French Motto means “liberty, equality, brotherhood”

Yes, Macron’s reforms would probably save money – under the current system, authorities face a total pension deficit slated to reach between €8bn and €17bn by 2025. But they would also take a bludgeon to one of the best retirement systems in the world.

In France, just 7% of older people are at risk of poverty. This is the lowest rate in the European Union, much less than the 19% in the UK and Germany. It’s also likely to be part of the reason why France has slightly greater life expectancy than either country. A system like this ought to be cherished and expanded, not cut.

Predictably, the French government has sought to paint opposition to retirement reform as “corporatist” – an unhelpful backlash from pockets of workers aiming to preserve their own advantages, along with the usual bunch of hardline trade unionists. And indeed, the call to strike initially came from militant railway workers with relatively good benefits. But it has since spread elsewhere: to state schoolteachers, hospital staffers, postal workers and employees of the state electricity provider.

Student unions and groups of gilets jaunes (yellow vests) looking to re-energise their year-long protest movement have also joined the cause. Those planning to protest appear increasingly like a cross-section of French society, brought together by a shared goal.

The fight goes on Bastien Lachaud ‘Tweeted‘ today:

“Public and private sector employees, young and retired, unionized and #Giletsjaunes . All sectors of the people are on the street today to once again say no to the #reformedesretraites of #Macron and defend our model of solidarity. We do not let anything #greve11janvier”

Talking of the temporary halt, French politician and former Socialist Party presidential candidate Ségolène Royal said it was “better late than never”.

“I hope that it will allow the resumption of serious discussions. It’s a first step, it will take many more,” she said, according to Le Figaro newspaper.

What is the strike about?

Workers are striking over Mr Macron’s plans to replace France’s 42 separate pension regimes with a universal points-based system.

Unions representing millions of staff in both the public and private sectors warn the plan will remove the most advantageous pensions for a number of jobs and force people to work longer or face reduced payouts when they retire.

France raised the official retirement age in the past decade from 60 to 62, but it remains one of the lowest among rich countries – in the UK, for example, the retirement age for state pensions is 66 and is due to rise to at least 67.

In November, a report commissioned by Mr Philippe concluded that, under the existing system, the country’s pension deficit could be as high as €17.2bn by 2025.

The French People have shown the world that in their determination to see social justice and the contract between state and the People honoured, we can change things, we can hold a government to account.

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