France’s Le Maire Says Retirement Age Could Be Negotiable

(Bloomberg) -- France’s government is willing to negotiate on some aspects of its plan to reform the country’s pension system, including the proposal to raise the retirement age to 64, senior officials said.

Calling on unions to return to the negotiating table, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the government was open to other proposals, but that it needed to guarantee the financial security of the pension system.

The retirement age and “the means of ensuring financial stability, that’s negotiable,” Le Maire said, speaking on France 2 television, “There could be better solutions. It’s up to social partners to bring us the proof.”

One of France’s more moderate unions, the CFDT, came out against the government’s plan on Wednesday. The union, which said a “red-line” had been crossed, urged workers to join another day of protests on Dec. 17.

Disruptive Strikes

Union-led disruptions have hampered public transportation, rail and airline traffic and fuel deliveries throughout France since last week, as workers protest changes to one of Europe’s most complex and generous pension programs.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Wednesday unveiled the government’s plan to update the national pension program, with a proposal for a new system to take effect in 2025. Under the new plan, the age for full pension eligibility would be pushed back two years, to 64, starting in 2027.

The main goal of the reform is to balance the system so that pensions are financed, Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin said in an interview with Europe 1 radio on Thursday. He added that other aspects of the government’s proposal -- beyond the retirement age -- are also negotiable.

CFDT union leader Laurent Berger told BFM TV on Thursday that he’d be willing to return to negotiations with the government providing “all solutions” are being discussed, and that the government drop its plan to raise the retirement age.

The government aims to present a pension reform law in January and to have the country’s parliament vote on it the following month, spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said on France Inter radio.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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