2023 pension reforms to leave mark on France's history: Trade union representative

Government ruled out reversal on 2-year retirement age hike, secretary national of trade union confederation tells Anadolu

Nur Asena Ertürk  | 20.09.2023 - Update : 21.09.2023
2023 pension reforms to leave mark on France's history: Trade union representative People wearing yellow vests (Gilets Jaunes) take part in a protest called by French national trade union General Confederation of Labour (CGT), in January, 2020, in Paris, France


Marked by widespread protests and hundreds of arrests, the dispute surrounding France’s pensions reform earlier this year will not be soon forgotten, according to one senior trade union representative.  

Despite outrage from workers and trade unions since January, when Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne revealed the reform scheme’s details, including a measure to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, the changes to the pensions system came into effect this month. 

Protesters gathered in cities across the country for 14 separate days of mass mobilization that were at times marred by violence throughout the first half of the year. 

Today though, the fight is over, according to Beatrice Lestic, secretary national of the French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT). 

The “match will not be replayed,” said Lestic, who is in charge of international matters at the CFDT. 

In an interview with Anadolu, she said that before the law was adopted and in force, government officials had refused to budge during the talks with trade unions on the two-year delay in the retirement age — a major sticking point for the protesters. 

“We didn’t really have the opportunity to make other suggestions,” she said, explaining that governments in France have been obsessed with retirement reform due to its cost to public finances. 

“The pensions reform was passed into law. We will not replay the match even if we continue to consider this reform unfair and brutal,” Lestic also said, indicating that there would be no more protests on the matter. 

Demonstrations scheduled for Oct. 13 in Paris will target a broader spectrum of issues including gender inequality, social injustice, cost of living and poverty, with the attendance of several European trade unions' delegations. 

“The French have also understood, the law is passed,” stressed Lestic. 

“Time will tell about their state of mind. People came to protest even when they realized that the administration was not going to give in. This sequence (of the pensions reform) will leave its marks on the French society.” 

Lestic stressed the “legendary mobilization” of 14 rounds of demonstrations in six months, noting that that many of those who took part had not joined protests in decades. 

“And it was not at all heard by the executive,” she lamented. 

While the protests did not achieve their desired result, the entire ordeal will “definitely translate into ballots,” Lestic said, adding that the reform has already become an electoral argument for the next elections.  

Pensions reform law 

France adopted the reform law in June, raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 over the next seven years, requiring at least 43 years of work to be eligible for a full pension. 

Millions of workers took to the streets after the government announced its plans until the measures were adopted into law in protest. 

Police arrested hundreds and faced allegations of brutality, while some violent groups infiltrated the parades across the country, particularly in Paris. 

Tensions rose further when Prime Minister Borne, after consultations with President Emmanuel Macron, decided to invoke the Constitution's Article 49.3, which gave her the special power to bypass a parliamentary vote and directly adopt the reform bill, out of fear that lawmakers would reject it. 

Despite the massive protests, Macron signed the bill into law in April.

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