French unions call for strikes as government presses ahead with pension reform

© Bertrand Guay, AFP

The French should work two years longer before they can retire, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said, detailing an unpopular reform of the pension system that risks strikes and will test President Emmanuel Macron's ability to deliver change.

The long-delayed overhaul pushes the retirement age to 64, a move opposed by four in every five citizens according to an Odoxa poll, at a time when many are already struggling with a cost-of-living crisis.

"I'm well aware that changing our pension system raises questions and fears among the French," Borne said on Tuesday, adding that her government would work on convincing the French that the reform was necessary.

"We offer today a project to balance our pension system, a project that is fair," she said.

Overhauling the pension system was a central pillar of Macron's reformist agenda when he entered the Élysée Palace in 2017. But he shelved his first attempt in 2020 as the government battled to contain the Covid outbreak.

The second attempt will not be any easier.

>> ‘I can’t take any more’: Working-class French lament Macron’s push to raise retirement age

Call for strike on Jan. 19

French unions later Tuesday called for a strike against pension reform on Jan 19. They had all already said that they oppose an increase of the retirement age.

Macron and Borne will also need to get the reform adopted in parliament, where they do not have an absolute majority.

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