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French unions vow to fight pension reform, with ‘mobilisation beginning in January’

France's eight biggest unions have issued a joint statement promising massive, co-ordinated strikes and demonstrations in January if the government goes ahead with planned pension reforms.

French unions vow to fight pension reform, with 'mobilisation beginning in January'
Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

“We will decide on a first date of a united mobilisation with strikes and demonstrations in January, if the government remains stubborn on its pension reform project,” reads the statement issued on Monday by the eight largest and most influential unions – CFDT, CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, CFTC, Unsa, Solidaires and FSU.

All eight are strongly opposed to the reforms to the pension system being introduced by Emmanuel Macron’s government and are promising a repeat of the 2019 pension protests, which saw two months of widespread transport strikes that brought railways and Paris public transport to a halt.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is due to present the detailed plan for pension reform on December 15th, including raising the French pension age.

Macron’s government already introduced pension reform back in 2019 – leading to two months of strikes – which streamlined and simplified the state pension system. The reforms scrapped many of the ‘special regimes’ that allowed certain professions to retire early, but left the overall pension age at 62.

READ ALSO What you need to know about French pension reforms

The reforms were due to be implemented in 2020, but as a result of the pandemic they were never brought into effect. During the 2022 presidential election campaign, Macron included in his manifesto a promise to introduce these reforms and to go further – raising the pension age from 62 to 65.

Unions are implacably opposed to this, and were joined in their statement by several student and high school pupils unions, who stated: “The youth, already strongly affected by precarious work situations and low pay, would be strongly impacted by this reform.”

The strikes in 2019 saw two months of extremely limited service on the national railways, and weeks of virtual shutdown of public transport in Paris. It was the longest continuous transport strike since 1968. There were also periodic strikes from a wide range of employees including teachers, lawyers, waste collectors and even ballet dancers.

Speaking on Monday evening, Yvan Ricordeau, national secretary of the CFDT union, said: “We are united tonight in opposition to 65-year pension age, if the government confirms that.

“There will necessarily be a first date [for strikes] at the time of the official announcement of the reform, in January. And then there will be other dates, designed to ensure that employees oppose the 65-year limit and that these provisions are withdrawn from the pension reform bill.”

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STRIKES

French unions announce new strike dates in battle against pension reform

After a second day in which more than a million people took to the streets of France to protest over planned pension reform, unions have announced further strike days.

French unions announce new strike dates in battle against pension reform

France’s eight main trades unions federations made a joint announcement on Tuesday night of fresh strike days – Tuesday, February 7th and Saturday, February 11th. 

Tuesday marks the day that the highly controversial pension reform – which includes raising the pension age from 62 to 64 – is presented to the French parliament for the first time.

Both days are likely to see significant disruption, particularly on public transport.

The mass strike on Tuesday saw trains and city public transport services heavily disrupted, while many schools closed as teachers walked out.

Demos held in towns and cities across France saw a huge turnout – more than 1.1 million people, an increase on the turnout on the first day of pension strikes.

READ ALSO ‘We won’t stop until Macron is defeated’ say French pension demonstrators

You can find all the latest news on strikes and service disruptions in our strike section HERE.

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