The French government will not abandon its controversial pensions reform plan, according to French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, despite widespread strikes and demonstrations by trade unions and workers.
“I am determined to complete the reform and very concerned to do so with respect for people and by responding to their concerns,” Philippe told Journal du Dimanche in an interview published Sunday.
The proposed plan to reform the state pension system would get rid of the country’s countless exceptions and specialized pension regimes, and create one centralized system. Although the details of the reform haven’t been published yet, the plan has infuriated the country’s trade unions. On Thursday, a mass strike drew more than 800,000 demonstrators across France, according to the interior ministry, and ongoing strikes among transportation workers have ground to a halt a number of rail and metro networks.
According to Philippe, backing down from the planned reforms would expose the country to a “very brutal” reform in the future.
The prime minister is expected to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and key ministers involved in the reform Sunday evening, French media reported, and will give a detailed presentation of the reform plans on Wednesday.
The changes, he told JDD, would be “extremely positive” for people who “suffer from injustices” in the current system, such as women and farmers.
Unions, however, have said they’ll only be satisfied with a full withdrawal of the reform plans.
“We will hold until the withdrawal,” the secretary-general of the French General Confederation of Labour, Philippe Martinez, told JDD. “The ball is in the government’s court.”
On Friday, trade unions called for another day of strikes and demonstrations to take place Tuesday, Le Monde reported.