The French government refuses to back down from reforming the pension system

The French government on Monday moved ahead with a hotly contested pension reform plan that would raise the retirement age to 64, saying balancing the system’s books should be a top priority.

“To return to this point (increasing age) would be to abandon the rebalancing of the system,” Labor Minister Olivier Dussopp said after presenting the legislation at a cabinet meeting, the last step before it entered parliamentary debate.

Protests against pension reform

Aside from gradually increasing the retirement age from 62 now to 64 by 2030, the bill would increase the minimum number of years people have to put into the system to get a full pension to 43 from 42 now.

Dussopp said the government “does not get along with trade unions,” which were at the forefront of a massive day of strikes and protests on Thursday as more than 1.1 million people took to the streets against pension reform.

Unions are now preparing for another strike day on January 31, warning they are ready to intensify their measures if the government does not relent.

Also read: France witnessed strikes in protest against Macron’s plan to reform the pension system

Ministers argue that the pension system will slide into a deficit of billions in the coming years and that savings must be found to avoid costly increases in public taxation.

They hoped to mollify opponents by using some of the savings from the reform to pay for measures such as a minimum pension of 1,200 euros ($1,300) per month, as well as by offering age limit exemptions for those who started working in their teens. .

– deconstructing the text –

Ministers must now shepherd reform through parliament, where they face strong opposition, especially from the left.

Dussopp said the government would accept amendments that “improve the text without abandoning a return to balance on the books by 2030, nor the fundamentals of reform.”

François Ruffin, a senior lawmaker in the far-left France Unboyd party, said Sunday that his colleagues would not try to bury the controversy in the shadow of an avalanche of 75,000 amendments as happened later.

Instead, the group will present “a strong opposition that will allow us to separate the script and the government’s lies piece by piece,” Ruffin told France 3 radio.

He insisted that President Emmanuel Macron “does not undertake this reform for economic reasons, for it is a matter of imposing his authority” on the country.

Macron himself insisted again on Sunday that pension reform was part of his platform in last year’s elections, winning a second term but losing his parliamentary majority in the legislative vote weeks later.

Now lawmakers in the ranks of the embattled government are weighing their own amendments.

“Our deputies will have the right to improve this reform,” the leader of President Stéphane Sejourn’s Ennahda party told France Info radio on Monday.

Also read: Macron’s reputation is in line with pushing pension reform

Support for pension changes appears fragile on the left wing of Macron’s parliamentary bloc and in smaller coalition parties, with former minister Barbara Pompili saying last week that she “cannot vote for reform at this point”.

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