France pushes on with pen­sion plan

Antelope Valley Press - - BUSINESS -

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.

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