You may be aware of strikes and protests in France against the Macron Government proposals to change the state retirement pension system. The railway and tube systems have been particularly affected – the French railway operator SNCF is reporting a loss in revenue approaching one BILLION euro since the dispute started in early December 2019. Ports and refineries are now being targeted with mounting losses to business.
All this comes on top of the year long gilets jaunes protests. French retail outlets were badly hit by their protests in December 2018; Christmas 2019 was hit by the transport strike. The Christmas period is critical to the turnover of many businesses, especially retail. It often means the difference between making a profit or suffering a loss for the financial year. Small and medium size businesses are particularly vulnerable.
None of which matters to the Unions orchestrating the strikes. They take such action at such a time because it will do damage. They have their Rights and their privileges to protect – tough on everyone else.
When I say privileges let me give you an example. The Paris tube drivers can look forward to an average pension of around 30,000 euro per year – and that becomes 43,000 euro per year if they spend their entire working life in that job.
Compare that to a state pension of just 6,000 euro a year – yes that is six thousand – for millions of others who worked in non strategic jobs like retail or agriculture.
SUCH IS THE PRESENT SYSTEM IN THIS LAND OF EQUALITY AND FRATERNITY AT THE HEART OF THE EUROPEAN UNION PROJECT
Retail and agriculture cannot hold the country to ransom, of course. Key sectors like transport can. Which is why they are privileged. This is the reality of life in the Rights-based Republic of France, motor of the Peace and Harmony Project called the European Union. The strong can do as they please and the weak must meekly submit to serious injustice.
Now I am very wary of Monsieur Macron. I believe he has Napoleonic pretensions regarding Europe. But he is surely right on this one.
His system ensures that French people start getting pension rights whenever they earn. That means that large numbers of part time and casual contract workers will start accumulating credits towards their state retirement pension as soon as they start earning, and whenever they earn. The present system requires minimum levels of earnings gained over a minimum period.
The President’s proposed system will also redistribute the contributions of the highest earners, like the privileged lawyers, to the poorer end. Thus his system will guarantee that everyone gets a minimum pension of 1000 euros per month – 12,000 euro a year.
Everyone who has made contributions to the system – basically the entire workforce.
And because this is inevitably about the need to balance the accounts as well, the new age for retirement on full pension will go up to 64 for most people [certain categories will still be able to retire much earlier because of the nature of their work, and you can still retire earlier at 62 but with a % reduction on your pension].
Yes 64 – not 65 or 66 or 67 or higher as is the case in other advanced western economies.
Macron’s pension system will look a lot more like the British with its universal set rate for all and a universal age for retirement. But then the British system was far more egalitarian when it started over one hundred years ago – long before the EU existed.
Yes the French with their totem mantra of equality and fraternity are that out of date.
The Unions are dead set against this, however, even though only a fraction of the workforce are union members.
Neither side wants to budge, and now it comes down to a naked power struggle – a struggle which is taking a new, nasty and dangerous turn. Because strikers are going back to work, new tactics are being deployed.
Friday 17th January 2020, Monsieur et Madame Macron were at the theatre in Paris. Three rows behind them sat someone whom France 24 refers to as “the activist journalist Taha Bouhafs”. Bouhafs tweeted out photos, suggesting that protestors outside might enter and disrupt the proceedings.
Dozens of protestors then tried to physically force their way in to the theatre but police repulsed them.
Next day, Saturday 18th January, French news broadcast pictures of a burned out Parisian restaurant, La Rotonde. It had been firebombed earlier that day. The culprits have not been identified but the restaurant is famous for being the venue Emmanuel Macron chose to celebrate after qualifying for the second and final round in the Presidential Election of 2017.
These are not legitimate tactics in a democracy. But they are seen as legitimate tactics by the fascistic Left in France: the anarchist Black Block see nothing wrong in fire bombing police officers in their vehicles, and Eco extremists have caused millions of euros of damage in Nantes alone in recent years during their violent protests against the new airport there.
Before Christmas, gangs of trade unionists protesting against pension reform entered secure electricity control centres in the main towns of France and cut off the current for several hours knowing full well the dependence of most French people on electric heating in winter …
Monsieur Macron was elected President of France. His party has an overall majority in the French national Assembly. His manifesto made clear the need for reform of the pension system.
In a democracy, people have a right to express their opinion and to assemble to voice their views. They have the right to stand at the next election and persuade the electorate to back them to change the law in the way they want.
They emphatically do not have the right to treat a constitutionally elected politician as a target for intimidation, nor the right to intimidate the population at large into acceding to their demands.
But the Rights based culture in the politically correct France and European Union enables people to forget their responsibilities and justify their unjust privileges.