French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the need to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 in order to make the French pension system financially sustainable, in a letter released on Friday.
The move comes after more than a million protesters marched in cities and towns across France this week as train and metro drivers, refinery workers and others began an open strike against the centrist government’s plan.
Unions called for more protests on Saturday. They are demanding the withdrawal of the bill, which is being debated in the French Senate this week.
According to the letter, made available by the president’s office, Macron said he opted to “do the French thing for a while” because other options, which he rejected, included “reducing pensions, raising taxes or raising taxes for our children”. And taking the grandchildren”. financial burden.”
Fifth day of nationwide protests halted in France over pension reform
Union leader Francois Homeril of the CFE-CGC, which represents workers in the energy sector, said on Friday that Macron’s letter appeared to be another “missed opportunity” for the president to advance reforms while listening to concerned workers .
French broadcaster BFM TV quoted Homeril as saying, “The president acts as if the social movement did not exist.” He added: “I am deeply disappointed and concerned by (Macron’s) response.”
Opinion polls consistently show that a majority of the French oppose the change. Left-wing MPs argue that companies and the wealthy should pitch in more to finance the pension system.
Macron also recalled that the measure was a key promise of his presidential campaign last year, adding that he had agreed to lower the age limit from 65 to 64 as initially planned.
French protesters take to the streets for a nationwide protest against the government’s pension reform plans
“You strongly express your disagreement,” Macron wrote to the unions. “I do not underestimate the discontent … as well as the concern expressed by many French people about never getting a pension.”
Meanwhile, the government on Friday asked for the implementation of a special procedure in the Senate to speed up the debate by conducting a single vote on the entire bill instead of voting on each amendment and article.
Fabrice Caudour, a leader of the influential union CGT Energy, said the government’s decision to formally push the bill through the Senate would “deepen anger” among French workers. He called on strikers and opponents of retirement reform to take their grievances to the streets on Saturday.
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The Senate, which is dominated by members of the Republican Party, is expected to approve the bill. Conservative senators have pushed for years to raise the minimum retirement age.
If the bill is approved by the Senate, it will continue to make its way through France’s complex legislative process next week.
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