French protests heat up over pension reform plans

STORY: Across France, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrate on Saturday

seeking to keep up pressure on the government over its pension reform plans….

which include a move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

In a joint statement ahead of Saturday’s marches, all the main unions called for the government to withdraw the bill.

Nurse Delphine Maisonneuve was among the protestors:

“I think this is comeuppance for the government’s indifference, meaning if they’re not able to listen to what’s happening on the streets, and are not able to realize what is happening with the people, well they shouldn’t be surprised that it blows up at some point.”

The French spend the largest number of years in retirement among OECD countries.

A benefit which, opinion polls show, a substantial majority of people are reluctant to give up.

Early estimates show that protest numbers have increased in Paris by about 20% from the last march on Tuesday.

This is according to French newspaper Le Figaro.

Unions were hoping for a huge turnout, and to draw people from all ages and backgrounds to show the government that the anger against the reform runs deep.

But President Emmanuel Macron says the changes are “vital” to ensuring the viability of the pension system.

According to Labour Ministry estimates, raising the retirement age by two years and extending the pay-in period would yield an additional 17.7 billion euros or, $19.18 billion, in annual pension contributions.

This would allow the system to break even by 2027.

But unions say there are other ways to do this, such as taxing the super rich or asking employers or well-off pensioners to contribute more.

They warned that they would seek to bring France to a standstill from March 7 if their demands were not met.

A strike is already scheduled for Feb. 16.