French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said yesterday that he is seeking new talks, a day after moderate trade unions angrily rejected his decisions on pension reforms.
France’s biggest union, the CFDT, announced it would be joining marches against the reforms next week in protest at Philippe’s decision to raise the minimum age for retiring on a full pension.
The historically Catholic CFTC followed suit, meaning that all five of the country’s biggest unions have now come out against the plans, originally opposed only by the hardline ones.
Strikes against the plans, which will also see the early retirement rights of public sector transport and health workers phased out, have crippled public transport since last Thursday.
Faced with the anger of unions that had in principle approved President Emmanuel Macron’s plan for a single national pension system, Philippe said that his door is open.
“From this afternoon, I will be calling trade union leaders and employer representatives to see how to quickly get back to dialogue on constructing the universal pension system,” the premier tweeted.
CFDT chief Laurent Berger earlier told RMC radio that he wanted “appeasement and a new discussion”, but raising the age for retirement on a full pension had to be off the table.
Wanting constructive dialogue “does not mean letting yourself be walked over”, he added.
The biggest railway union meanwhile threatened that strikes, which saw three out of four long-distance trains cancelled yesterday, could continue into the Christmas holiday season.
France 3 television reported that the industrial zone in the port city of Le Havre was blockaded by strikers, while the port of Marseille was also blocked, according to broadcaster BFMTV.
There would be “no Christmas truce unless the government comes to its senses before then”, the head of the CGT union’s rail division,
Laurent Brun, told public broadcaster FranceInfo.
It would be better for everyone to have “a few days, a few weeks of difficulties rather than a lifetime of misery”, Brun said.
CFDT’s Berger, however, said people should be able to travel for Christmas.
For the moment the CFDT was only calling for protests on December 17, with the possibility of further action in January if there was no progress in the meantime, he said.
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