France pushes on with pension plan
PARIS (AP) — Women workers danced in protest and striking Eiffel Tower employees shuttered France’s most famed monument Friday — but the government pushed ahead anyway with a troubled bill redesigning the national retirement system.
It’s President Emmanuel Macron’s signature reform, aimed at streamlining an increasingly costly system that allows some people to retire as early as their 50s. But it has unleashed 51 days of strikes, and new protests in Paris and other cities Friday, by unions who see it as an attack on hard-won worker rights, and on France’s way of life.
Macron’s government struggled Friday to sell the plan to a skeptical public after the Cabinet approved two bills aimed at enshrining the changes.
The bills leave many questions unanswered, and government ministers dodged questions about a central concern: whether the retirement age will go up, and by how much. Currently French people who have worked a full career can retire with a full pension at 62.
As the Cabinet met in the Elysee presidential palace, protesters marched along the Seine River past the nearby Louvre Museum, demanding that the government scrap the plan altogether.
“We’re against change when it’s damaging to us, against change that goes against social progress in society. It’s normal for us to show we’re opposed to it,” said François Hommeril, head of the CFE-CGC union.
A group of women workers, dressed in blue work shirts and yellow gloves like the “Rosie the Riveter” figure immortalized in U.S. wartime posters, danced and sang to complain that the reform unfairly hurts women.
Travelers faced renewed disruptions on regional trains and the Paris subway, and some schools and other public services also faced walkouts. The Eiffel Tower closed, and the Versailles chateau and Louvre Museum warned visitors of potential disruptions.
The number of striking workers and halted trains dropped considerably this week after the government made a series of concessions. But unions hope Friday’s actions will revive opposition to the reform.
The bills go next month to parliament, where Macron’s centrist party has a large majority and is all but sure to approve it.