Under pressure from the population, the French government has suspended part of the pension reform – for now. For the demonstrators, this is not a victory.
First signs of fatigue – Philippe has long been tired of the strikes and demonstrations Photo: reuters
French head of government Edouard Philippe has given in to pressure from the strikes and "provisionally" suspended the increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64 that he said was inevitable. Finally! It is a first gesture and shows that the head of government has at least listened to what had been declared in countless meetings in advance as unreasonable and unfair, especially for certain professional categories. But this concession is just "provisional".
And perhaps even only a pseudo-solution. This is because the state leadership explicitly reserves the right to return to this increase it wants as early as April if the social partners, the employers and the unions do not agree on new funding as soon as possible – which seems highly unlikely.
The very fact that Philippe is giving the social partners only three months to find solutions that can guarantee him financial equilibrium proves that he only wants to buy time and divide the unions. Nevertheless, the prime minister is buckling politically because he has also been pressured by President Emmanuel Macron to reach a "compromise." For the strikers, it is thus clear that they can achieve something, even if it is far from being enough for them.
However, it is premature for the moderate trade union federations CFDT and Unsa to celebrate this "provisional" concession as a victory. After all, the government is only postponing the increase in the retirement age at which a full pension can be drawn after at least 43 years of contributions. But the introduction of the unfair points system for calculating the pension amount remains.
Of course, people in France today will also wonder why it took such a long and grueling struggle for this small concession. The government should have agreed on a compromise with the unions right from the start.