“We took the time to consult,” Philippe said. “We must now move forward.”
The government remains firm in its commitment to streamline France’s byzantine system of pension plans, Philippe said. But in an apparent olive branch to the striking train conductors and Paris Metro drivers, he said younger generations of workers would be the ones most affected by the proposed changes.
Only those born after 2004 would experience the new system, Philippe said, and those who were currently 45 or older would not be affected. This was a concession: Earlier proposals had targeted a larger pool of workers, up to those now in their mid-50s. Meanwhile, the official retirement age would remain 62, but 64 would be the age at which the full pension benefit would kick in.
Among other details in Philippe’s announcement was the provision of a 1,000-euro minimum pension. The prime minister also assured teachers, who had joined the strike, that they would not lose out under the new system, although the specifics were somewhat unclear. “For teachers to lose a single euro of their pension would be unacceptable,” he said.
“From today, I hope that the presidents of public enterprises engage in dialogue with union organizations,” Philippe said.
The unions, however, showed little sign of relenting, and the strikes were slated to continue. Philippe Martinez, the secretary general of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), one of France’s most powerful unions, called on workers to “amplify the strike movement.”
Overhauling France’s retirement system, a particularly generous aspect of one of the world’s most generous welfare states, has been a key promise of President Emmanuel Macron ever since he ran for office in 2017. But it is also an ambitious goal that none of Macron’s predecessors have been able to achieve, with most caving in to the power of the street.
In 1995, President Jacques Chirac backtracked on a similar overhaulafter millions took to the streets in protest. So far, Macron’s proposal, which would standardize 42 retirement plans into a single, points-based system, has not drawn those kinds of crowds, but the vehemence and vitriol remains.
In the meantime, the country prepared for further disruptions. France’s national rail service, the SNCF, urged passengers to cancel all but essential travel, and the Paris Metro advised travelers to avoid public transportation altogether.