Political Gridlock in France Continues

Political Gridlock in France Continues

The pension reform continues to paralyse France as new protests are imminent. The government is sticking to its plans – and the trade unions are all the more united in their opposition.

The head of the moderate CFDT trade union, Laurent Berger, remains combative: “I’m calling on as many workers and citizens as possible to take to the streets – all over the country. That’s what it’s about. We have to be strong of democracy. Quiet, non-violent, but people have to take to the streets.”

Berger launched this appeal after the long-awaited meeting yesterday between Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and the various trade unions. The conversation: a real failure, judged Berger and his colleagues. “We all presented our point of view and one after the other asked the Prime Minister if she would withdraw her law. The answer was no,” said Berger.

Afterwards – according to participants – the employee representatives stood up and left the hall. Also Sophie Binet, the new head of the CGT trade union, which is far to the left.

It had been rumored that she was even more radical than her predecessor, Philippe Martinez, and that the union’s unusual alliance was in danger of falling apart as a result. It didn’t look like that yesterday.

The various trade union representatives seemed to have agreed, and Binet reported shortly after the meeting at the Prime Minister’s office: “We were faced with a radicalised, obtuse and unrealistic government.”

Their attitude is a slap in the face for millions of French people who are demonstrating against raising the retirement age, increasing the number of years of contributions and the abolition of special regulations. The government’s strategy of staying power is cruel and irresponsible, Binet said.

Meanwhile, Berger spoke of a social crisis that had grown into a real crisis of democracy.

  “Everyone was able to listen to the other and express their opinions. Unfortunately, our different views on retirement ages meant we couldn’t have a more in-depth discussion.”

The Prime Minister would have liked to talk about pension-related issues. For example: working conditions and unemployment in old age. But the unions refused. They insist that the pension reform must first be withdrawn.

Hence, why there was another protest and a new strike, in local and long-distance traffic, for garbage collection and in schools. The trade unions are hoping for active participation and are counting on the Constitutional Council. In just over a week, it will decide whether the pension reform is legally compliant or not.

Image by Faces of the World (Flickr)/ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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