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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Retraites : riposte unitaire le 22 mai

Retirement : joint union action planned for May 22nd

Translated Tuesday 13 May 2008, by Edward Lamb

The reform of the retirement system. A front line of refusal from labour unions who call for a day "for the defence of a collective retirement system" on May 22nd.

The five major labour organisations representing wage-earners outlined their plan to counter the government’s proposal of augmenting the number of years during which workers are required to contribute to the retirement system [1] : a day of action and demonstrations on May 22nd.

Barely a week after the big date reserved for the mobilization of the Civil Service administration planned for May 15th.

A joint union action on May 22nd

This call was declared by the labour unions on the day following their meeting with the French Labour Ministry.

Xavier Bertrand [2] , accompanied by the Secretary of State for the Civil Service, André Santini, and the Secretary of State for Employment, Laurent Wauquiez, met respectively, on Monday April 28th, with each one of the partenaires sociaux (social partners) [3] to discuss these measures.

Bernard Thibault, general secretary of the CGT trade union, considered that there was not "one single positive point" in the government’s proposal to reform the retirement system, which he judges "extremely serious". The union leader had further called for widespread social demonstrations for Labour Day.

The unions’ concerted response came immediately. On Tuesday April 29th, the five labour organizations called for the mobilization of their members on May 22nd, "for the defence of a collective retirement system".

The government was at the initiative of a consultation the issue of which has already been announced : the augmentation to 41 years of obligatory contributions to the retirement system.

Consultation for consultation’s sake

At the end of the first phase of consultations, French Labour Minister Xavier Bertrand had announced a priori that the period of obligatory contributions would be raised to 41 years in 2012.

A position which confirms the government’s refusal to consider having the employers finance the retirement system – indeed, a veritable taboo – while, for years, it’s the wage-earners who have made the greatest sacrifices in order to preserve the present system.

The results of the loi Fillon [4] seem to prove, on the contrary, that other measures, particularly those proned by the union organizations, would be effective.

As indicated by Yves Housson in an article dated Friday 28th March : « Since 2003, Fillon’s reform has been put to the trial of reality. And the balance sheet is not in it’s favour. Saving our retirement system », we were told, « would necessitate lengthening the active periods of one’s career at work and, thusly, supposes extending indefinitely the number of years dedicated to contributions : after the 40 years required of everyone since 2008, growing to 41 years between 2009 and 2012, and so on…. The truth is, the latest report from the Retirement Orientation Council (COR) states that : the percentage of work activity has not risen. The most flagrant sign of that failure, only 38% of senior citizens are still working. Upon reaching the age of retirement, six wage-earners out of ten have already been removed from their company’s payrolls. In those conditions, the only effect of raising the number of years required to obtain a full retirement pension is that of diminishing pension levels. It affects, in particular, those wage-earners whose careers are already incomplete or including episodes of job insecurity, part time employment or unemployment, and condemned to low retirement pensions. »

MEDEF : retirement starting at age 62

On the employer’s side, the president of the MEDEF (Movement pour des Entrepreneurs de France), Laurence Parisot, once again pronounced herself in favour of raising the legal retirement age in France to 62.

At the end of August, she had already proned raising legal retirement age to 61, in 2012, and to 62, in 2020.

Translator’s notes :

[1Otherwise determining retirement age according to the minimum number of years a worker must contribute to the fund before being allowed a full pension.(financed by payments from both employers and their employees).

[2Current Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Solidarity in François Fillon’s second government.

[3Social Security in France is administered or managed by all partenaires sociaux, or social partners; typically, they represent the employee’s unions as well as the employer’s…

[4The Law bearing the name of the current French Prime Minister.

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