French PM Borne to detail controversial pension reform plans

© Thomas Samson / AFP

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is to detail plans this week that will effectively make French employees work longer, most likely by raising the retirement age to 64 or 65 from 62 at present. A majority of French oppose the reform and trade unions are threatening industrial action.

The passing of the government's pension reform package through parliament will not be an easy task, as French President Emmanuel Macron lacks a working majority.

He will need to win over several dozen conservative lawmakers or use his constitutional powers to bypass the assembly, which would enrage the opposition and further aggravate the public.

The government says reform is necessary to keep the pension system's finances out of the red in the coming years.

"The aim is to balance the accounts without raising taxes or cutting pensions. Various options are on the table, but all include raising the retirement age," government spokesman Olivier Véran told journalists.

Macron had to put the pension reform on ice in 2020 as the government rushed to contain the Covid-19 outbreak and save the economy.

Now, union opposition is tougher than in 2020 with even the reform-minded CFDT – France's biggest union – threatening to protest, which it abstained from three years ago despite misgivings about the reform at the time.

"If the retirement age is pushed back to 65 or 64, the CFDT will do what we've said we'll do – we will resist this reform by calling on workers to mobilise," CFDT head Laurent Berger said last week.

(with wires)

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