The French government on Saturday offered the unions a concession on its controversial pension reform amid fresh nationwide demonstrations against the plan.
In a letter sent to the unions and employers, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced he was ready to withdraw the plan to raise the retirement age for full pension benefits to 64 for people who retire before 2027, saying he wanted “to demonstrate my trust” toward the unions with the offer.
The government’s pension reform aims to streamline the current system and make it more fiscally sustainable, but French unions fear it would lead to a reduction of pension benefits and the development of private pensions schemes. Concerns over the plans triggered one of the longest transport strikes in French history.
Philippe’s letter represents a significant concession: The so-called “pivot age” — meaning the legal retirement age will remain 62 years, but only those who work until 64 will receive their full pension benefits — is the most controversial aspect of the reform.
But his offer only extends to those retiring in the next seven years, meaning the “pivot age” system could still be implemented for people retiring after 2027. Demonstrators on the streets of Paris on Saturday chanted “we will continue until the reform is withdrawn” after the prime minister’s announcement.
One union welcomed Philippe’s letter. “The withdrawal of the pivot age shows the government’s willingness to compromise,” the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), which represents employees all over the country, said in a statement. The CFDT was one of the few big labor unions that had been at least partly supportive of the planned reform until the government introduced the “pivot age.”
The French opposition, however, was not impressed.
The Socialists’ leader Olivier Faure called for the whole reform to be scrapped. “We are asked to vote on a definitive reform in exchange for a temporary withdrawal of the pivot age. No reform is possible without proper financing,” he said.
Marine Le Pen, the president of France’s far-right party National Rally, called the letter an “obvious manipulation.”
“So I was right. The pivot age existed only to be withdrawn and to sweeten the pill of a reform that will make millions of retired people poorer,” she said.