French PM says controversial retirement age 'not set in stone'

REUTERS - SARAH MEYSSONNIER

Speaking ahead of crucial talks with the trade unions about the government's sharply contested plans to reform retirement policy, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has indicated that her government is prepared to be flexible on some of the legislation's most controversial clauses.

The proposals will be presented to the cabinet on 23 January before being debated in parliament at the beginning of February. The full details of the plan are to be unveiled on 10 January.

A majority of French oppose the reform, according to opinion polls, with a Harris-Interactive poll published Monday putting the level of opposition at 54 percent.

The key measure, which would push the official retirement age from 62 to 65, has been rejected out of hand by the unions.

"The only group in favour are retired people of 65 and over," said Frédéric Dabi, head of the Ifop polling institute.

The revamp was supposed to have been announced in mid-December but President Emmanuel Macron, whose ruling party lost its overall parliamentary majority in polls last year, delayed the announcement to allow further talks.

The president has said he will not be sidetracked. "This year will be the year of pension reform," he insisted in his traditional New Year's address.

A new system, which is intended to balance the financing of pension provision, will be implemented "by the end of the summer", he promised.

Retirement age is union 'red line'

On Tuesday, Borne is due to hold discussions with unions, which have already signalled that even a less ambitious pension age increase to 64 years would not be acceptable.


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