France enters crucial week of talks with unions on pensions

French President Emmanuel Macron is preparing to launch a crucial week of negotiations with labour unions amid nationwide protests and transport strikes against the government’s plans to overhaul the pension system.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Inter radio that “a compromise has never been so close,” as talks between the prime minister and worker unions are to resume Tuesday. Macron was holding a Cabinet meeting Monday ahead of the talks.

The government is “not inflexible,” said Le Maire, suggesting there’s room for negotiation including on the financing of the pension system.

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In Macron’s televised New Year’s address, he vowed to carry out the overhaul of the pension system but called on his government to find a “quick compromise” with unions.

Macron wants to unify France’s 42 different pension schemes, some of which grant early retirement, into a single one. The plans also include raising the eligibility age for full pensions from 62 to 64, which is the most criticized measure.

Macron says the new system will be fairer and financially sustainable.

Unions fear it will make people work longer for lower pensions. Recent polls show a majority of French people still support the protest movement.

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