France, new wave of strikes. Waiting for Macron openings

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PARIS – New day of strikes and demonstrations in France against the government pension reform. Today's meeting had a reduced impact compared to the beginning of the protest, last December 5th. If it was another bad day in transport due to the strikes always followed by the drivers, the participation in the square was lower than the expectations for the same admission of the unions: 800 thousand people throughout France compared to 1.5 million on Thursday last. The Parisian march led by the unions marched in the afternoon between the Invalides and Place Denfert-Rochereau without incidents or violence as it happened instead last Thursday, with groups of black bloc in action.The protest, however, does not stop waiting for the next moves by Emmanuel Macron. The French leader continues to repeat that the reform is "indispensable" but meanwhile sends the premier forward Edouard Philippe that tomorrow will announce a series of concessions on the reform, especially against the moderate unions. The "big bang" of the social security system promised by Macron during the electoral campaign has already been the subject of almost two years of consultations. The government now aims to approve by 2020 the transformation of the social security system into a "points" model, inspired by that of Germany and Sweden, canceling special regimes and autonomous funds. On the application modalities, however, Prime Minister Philippe could accept some requests, such as inserting some salary adjustments for government officials penalized by the reform, such as teachers, or giving guarantees for arduous jobs such as that of train drivers. It is not excluded that Philippe also decides to delay the effects of the reform, which in the initial version had to be applied starting from the workers born in 1963. In the hypotheses circulated these days there is talk of a displacement to those born in 1973 or 1975.
"There are no magic solutions," the head of the government explained, insisting on a transformation that must make the calculation of pensions more "fair and supportive". In his much awaited speech, scheduled for tomorrow at noon, Philippe will also have to clarify whether the reform will be accompanied by savings measures for a social security system that in 2025 could have an increasing deficit of up to 15 billion euros. Some economists who worked on Macron's electoral program, such as Jean Pisani Ferry, signed an appeal on Le Monde to add austerity measures, with the risk of increasing the unpopularity of the measures. In the polls we see that a majority of the French is in favor of the current dispute but, at the same time, asks to change the social security system.
Behind the tug-of-war between the government and the unions, there is also the rivalry between the two main workers' confederations. Philippe Martinez, the mustachioed leader of the radical CGT, formerly the French abbreviation, has now been overtaken in terms of members of the Cfdt moderates (the equivalent of our CISL) led by the placid Laurent Berger. The Cfdt is in favor of moving towards a social security system with points but asks for some guarantees, while the CGT is opposed on principle to a change of system. It is probable that the government will try to exalt the differences between the two union leaders in order to split the mobilization.


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