Macron urges “rapid compromise” in bitter dispute over retirement reform

PARIS, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday called for a “rapid compromise” between government, workers unions and employers to put an end to a bitter dispute and 28 days of strikes over a plan to reform France’s complicated retirement system.

But in an address to the nation for the New Year, the French leader said he would not back down from his core policy to transform the retirement system and he reiterated support for what he said was “a project for justice and social fairness.” He warned that any backing down on the retirement reform project, which has met strong opposition from unions, would be a disservice to future generations and would mean France’s “children will pay the price of our renunciation.” France has been hit by widespread strikes in the transport sector and partially in other public-sector areas since December 5, with mainline, regional and local train services severely disrupted and urban transport in Paris barely functioning most days.

Education, energy and civil service sectors also sporadically joined protests and mass demonstrations throughout France on three occasions since December 5, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets.

Despite the broad opposition to reforming the retirement sector, the government of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has made only minor concessions and still aims to dismantle most of the 42 “special regimes” that give different and often preferential treatment to their sectoral employees when they retire.

Macron said in his address that he would continue to push for a “universal” system as this is more fair and is needed to keep France’s retirement system afloat for the coming generations.

“I hear the fears and anxieties, and the many lies” on the reform process, Macron said.

Despite maintaining his strong position behind the retirement reforms, he called nonetheless for “rapid compromise” between “those who want this” among the unions and employer federations.

Negotiations between the parties are due to resume on January 7, but some unions are already calling for nationwide protests on January 9.

Macron praised the economic performance of France and the workers here over the past year and he remarked that 500,000 jobs had been created and the number of start-ups and performance in France was higher than in neighbouring countries.

The French President also vowed to work for “a stronger, fairer and more humane” society.

Briefly commenting foreign policy, Macron reiterated his commitment to fight terrorism, in Syria as in the Sahel, and he promised more initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa in the coming weeks.

Concerning Brexit, he said the departure of Britain from the European Union would be “a trial” but that he would seek “a solid relationship” with Britain in the post-Brexit era.

He also committed to working to promote ecological issues and defending efforts to limit global warming and fighting climate change.

Source: Kuwait News Agency