Pension reform: what to remember from the interview with Elisabeth Borne on France 2

Europe 1 with AFP
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12:24 a.m., February 03, 2023

Under the pressure of growing mobilizations against her pension reform, Élisabeth Borne defended Thursday evening on France 2 an “indispensable” project without returning to the highly contested postponement of the retirement age, but by showing herself open to adjustments on the employment of seniors or long careers. The much-awaited head of government delivered a new session of explanations and pedagogy to journalist Caroline Roux.

“It is essential to carry out a reform to preserve our pay-as-you-go pension system”, even if “asking the French to work gradually longer is not easy”, she said. Asked to say if she would repeat today that this reform is “just”, she did not reuse this word. “We need justice in the way we distribute the effort between the French,” she only said.

The government was criticized for having said at the time of the presentation of its reform on January 10 that it was “fair” and carrier of “social progress” while there will remain disparities in the duration of contributions. Those who started working early will have to contribute longer to the system, and the situation of some women was also highlighted. The executive has since refocused its message on the “effort” asked of the French and on the “indispensable” nature of the reform to “save” the system.

“Little empathy”

“We have just relived the press conference (presentation of the project): the retreat for dummies. As if there had not been two days of mobilization. We would have liked a little empathy”, reacted the boss of the CFDT Laurent Berger, who is opposed, like all the unions, to the postponement of the retirement age from 62 to 64 years. He called for “amplifying the movement”. The President of the Republicans Eric Ciotti, on whom the government is counting to pass its reform, found the Prime Minister “struggling” and “unconvincing in her explanations”, considering that there is “nothing new on Table”.

Elisabeth Borne, however, said she was “open” to adjustments to certain accompanying measures. She thus let it be known that she was in favor of Parliament widening the possibilities of sanctions against companies on the crucial issue of the employment of seniors. She also promised a “debate” in the Assembly on long careers, on which the leader of the right-wing deputies, Olivier Marleix, received at Matignon on Wednesday, had mentioned common ground.

On women, some of whom are penalized by the reform, she admitted that the effort required concerns “women like men” but “not those who started working early, who have difficult jobs”, or “who have had chopped careers”.

“Without ambiguity”

The head of government hoped to convince the French but also her majority, in which elected officials expressed doubts. In this regard, just before her broadcast, she received the support of Edouard Philippe, leader of the allied party Horizons, who announced on BFMTV his “unambiguous” support for the project. Accused of not supporting the executive enough, this supporter of a postponement of the starting age to 65, 66 or even 67 years old, sees his group sow confusion, some deputies threatening to vote against or abstain.

The Prime Minister assured that she had “no doubt” about the majority vote in favor of the reform and assured that she did not plan to resort to 49.3 which allows the adoption of a text without vote except motion of censure. The National Assembly begins on Monday the examination of the text, on which approximately 20,000 amendments have been tabled, more than half by La France insoumise (LFI) In the front line on this reform, the confidence rating of Elisabeth Borne has reached a lowest since his appointment at 23% (-4 points), according to an Elabe poll carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Postponement to 64 is no longer negotiable

After a record mobilization on Tuesday, with between 1.2 and 2.7 million people in the street, which will be followed by two new days of action next week, she repeated that she “measured what it represented” from work longer. But on Sunday, Elisabeth Borne had already tightened the screw by saying that the postponement to 64, which crystallizes discontent, was “no longer negotiable”.

This stiffening exposes to possible blockages in the country, which 60% (+3 points in one week) of the French “would understand”, according to an Elabe poll published on Wednesday, while 71% remain opposed to the reform.

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