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  #491  
Old 01-08-2020, 07:33 AM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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FRANCE

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/frenc...071807814.html
Quote:
French PM, Unions Keep Pension Red Lines in Year’s First Meeting

Spoiler:
(Bloomberg) -- The French government and unions held on to their red lines on pension reform in the new year’s first meeting aimed at ending a standoff that’s prompted a record-long transport strike.

The two sides left the door open for further talks.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who met with unions Tuesday, said he remains “determined” to introduce a universal pension system, while the CFDT union -- the country’s largest -- repeated that increasing the retirement age would be a red line.

The government has outlined plans to replace 42 different pension regimes with a single, points-based system and proposed raising the age for a full pension to 64 from 62. That has triggered strikes by transport unions opposed to losing their special regimes. The strikes have lasted more than a month, gumming up travel and commutes.

“I’m very happy to have been able to meet with unions and employer organizations at the start of the year to make progress and to allow the creation of a universal pension system to which we’re extremely attached,” Philippe said.

Philippe welcomed a proposal from the CFDT union to hold a conference on the future financing of the pension system, while the union said ahead of further talks scheduled for Friday that the government must drop plans to raise the retirement age.

‘Unjust’ Proposal

“The retirement age is unjust, serves no purpose and has been massively rejected by the population,” the CFDT said in a statement following the meeting.

French President Emmanuel Macron has already made unpopular changes to taxes, labor laws and the welfare system, while pension reform is proving challenging. The labor unrest has already run longer than strikes in 1995 that forced the government to back off from changing the state system for retirement and health care.

Philippe said earlier on Tuesday that he was open to all discussions on the retirement age so long as they are fiscally prudent and are aimed at balancing the budget. He added that he was open on the methods involved in achieving a universal system.

“The transition may be gradual for different categories, but I am firm on the objective of a universal system, with no special regimes,” Philippe said in an interview on RTL radio.

Refinery Action

“The French know and understand that everywhere in Europe people are working a little longer because life expectancy has increased,” he said. “The system needs to be responsible and balanced.”

The CFDT said the government’s openness to discussion was positive, though the paths of discussion “are narrow.”

Strikes against the reforms began on Dec. 5, with disruption to national rail services and the metro system in the French capital continuing into the new year. Unions have called for further demonstrations later this week to keep up pressure on the government.

Oil major Total was readying for four days of disruption at its refineries by striking workers, while Exxon said fuel deliveries from its Fos refinery were being impacted.

The pension bill is due to be presented to the cabinet on Jan. 24, with the National Assembly to start examining it at the end of February. Philippe expects the law to be adopted in the National Assembly in March, he said.
https://news.yahoo.com/french-pensio...105703245.html
Quote:
No breakthrough in French pensions impasse

Spoiler:
Paris (AFP) - Talks between the French government and unions aimed at ending a 34-day transport strike failed Tuesday to break the deadlock over a planned pensions overhaul, one of the most hotly contested reforms launched by President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron's push for sweeping changes to the pension system has unleashed the longest transport strike in France in decades, causing weeks of travel chaos in Paris particularly.

As the standoff expanded to oil refineries, raising fears of petrol shortages, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that both sides needed to "budge a little."

While insisting the reforms would not be withdrawn, he made conciliatory noises about the government's proposals to extend the minimum age for receiving a full pension to 64 from 62.

- ADVERTISEMENT -

The proposal, which aims to get the French to work longer, has prompted an outcry, including from the more moderate unions with which the government is hoping to do a deal.

"The pivot age (64) must be removed from the bill," said Laurent Berger, the leader of the moderate CFDT union, France's largest, giving the government an ultimatum to rescind the proposal by Friday.

Philippe said that if unions could come up with a better way of ensuring that the pension system remains solvent, "I will take it."

But the hardline CGT union, the biggest at state rail operator SNCF, continued to demand that the government scrap the reforms outright.

"The only overture we want to hear is, 'We're stopping everything'," CGT leader Philippe Martinez told France Inter radio.

On Tuesday, the strike hit oil refineries following calls by the CGT for a blockade of petrol shipments.

The government said five of the country's eight refineries were experiencing "temporary delivery difficulties" but the CGT insisted all eight were affected.

- Retailers hurting -

As the standoff continues, public support for the strike, which remained high throughout the first month, has begun to fall.

A Harris Interactive poll released Monday showed 60 percent backing the industrial action, down nine points since it started.

An Ifop poll gave it just 44 percent backing, down seven points from the previous survey on December 19-20.

The reform would eliminate 42 separate pension schemes that offer early retirement and other advantages, mainly to public-sector workers, in favour of a single system.

The CGT and FO unions have called for a new day of mass walkouts on Thursday, which could see schools shut and public transport even more impacted than usual.

Train operator SNCF says it has lost more than 600 million euros ($670 million) in ticket sales since the strike began on December 5.

The head of the Paris chamber of trades and crafts said retail sales in the capital were down by 30 to 40 percent.

- 'Gritting our teeth' -

As the weeks pass, the number of striking rail and metro workers has tapered off, partly due to lost pay.

"For now, we are gritting our teeth," Eric Challal, a striking customer service agent at Gare du Nord station in Paris, told AFP.

The strike is the longest continuous stoppage on French railways since the national rail service was created in the 1930s.

Macron made the pensions overhaul a key plank of his 2017 election campaign, saying a single, points-based system would be fairer, in particular for women and low earners.

The government has already made a series of concessions to the police, military, rail workers and Paris Opera employees, allowing them to continue to retire early or to keep their separate benefits for several years to come.

But most salaried workers born in 1975 or later would be impacted by the new system, in which people would earn points based on lifetime earnings.

Currently, most pensions are calculated on a worker's 25 best years of earnings -- public workers, however, get payouts based on their last six months.


https://www.pionline.com/legislation...on-reform-slog
Quote:
Strikes against French pension reform slog on

Spoiler:
Strikes against French President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform plan entered their second month, the longest such action for state-owned railway company SNCF.

Transport remained gummed up as unions prepared for two more days of street protests while the government said a compromise was near.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will start another round of discussions with union representatives Tuesday, which will mark the SNCF's 34th consecutive day of strikes.

"I expect Edouard Philippe's government to find a route to a quick compromise that respects the principles I have repeated," Mr. Macron said during his New Year's speech last week. "The pension reform I have committed to will be completed."

Mr. Macron has already made unpopular changes to taxes, labor laws and the welfare system, but the pension reform is proving the most challenging. The labor unrest has already run longer than the 1995 strikes that forced the government to back off from changing the state system for retirement and health care.

The potential damage to the French economy is adding urgency to the talks as growth could be hampered if strikes drag on, the government has warned. The strike has curtailed public transportation for the past month and dented the hospitality industry's revenue.

There were some signs that the momentum of strikes may be starting to wane as metro and railway services around Paris improved slightly, while SNCF said high-speed train operations should be back to almost normal as soon as Monday, with improvements for other trains.

There were also signs of compromise from the two sides, with lawmakers suggesting tweaks to some parts of the reform and moderate union CFDT proposing a conference on how to ensure the pension system is financially balanced.

"From the moment labor unions make proposals, it's a good situation," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on France Inter radio Monday. "Never has compromise seemed so close to me; never has the possibility of getting an agreement seemed so within reach."

A survey conducted Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 by pollster Ifop and published Sunday found that 44% of the French support the strikers, down from 51% just before Christmas. The latest results found 37% opposed to the protests and 19% were indifferent.

Unions still plan to step up demonstrations again as the holiday season ends, with calls for a fourth day of nationwide protests Thursday and a fifth on Saturday. The far-left CGT union is pushing for demonstrations, calling for a complete blockade of the country's refineries Tuesday through Friday.

CGT leader Philippe Martinez said the government was responsible for the current stalemate over the pension reform, reiterating demands that it be scrapped in an interview Sunday with LCI TV.

The movement has coalesced discontent from all sides with opposition parties, from the far-right National Rally to EELV, the environmental party, also calling for the government to spike the reform.


https://www.reuters.com/article/us-f...-idUSKBN1Z60ND
Quote:
French unions blockade refineries in bid to stop pension reform

Spoiler:
PARIS (Reuters) - French unions blockaded several oil refineries on Tuesday, aiming to cause shortages at petrol stations after a month-long public transport strike failed to force the government to withdraw its pension reform plans.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks during the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Workers at Exxon Mobil France’s (XOM.N) Port Jerome and Fos refineries began a four-day strike, the hardline CGT union said.

An Exxon spokeswoman confirmed that the 140,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Fos-sur-Mer plant, which accounts for about 10% of French refinery output, was blocked but added that the 240,000 bpd Port Jerome refinery was operating normally.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the country was not at risk of fuel shortages and that police would ensure oil depots were not blockaded.

RELATED COVERAGE
Workers at France's Port Jerome and Fos oil refineries on strike: CGT union
“People have the right to strike, but they do not have the right to block (refineries),” he said on RTL radio, referring to picketing by workers to obstruct factory gates.

Philippe said he was open to discussing changes to the average retirement age with unions, one of the main sticking points over pension reform plans that have triggered protests.

The environment ministry said all French refineries continued to operate, but five out of seven were temporarily having difficulty distributing their products.

It said it expected no problems with petrol stations, whose supplies are guaranteed by a separate network of 200 depots.

On Tuesday, only three of these depots reported difficulties while others were operating normally, the ministry said, adding that France has stocks corresponding to more than three months of fuel consumption.

A spokesman for French petrol industry lobby UFIP said that nationwide only about 155 out of 11,000 petrol stations - about 1.5% - experienced shortages of some products.

“This is mainly due to panic buying, not to a shortage of fuel,” oil expert Jean-Louis Schilansky said.

FNIC-CGT union leader Emmanuel Lépine said on France Info radio that seven out of eight refineries were on strike. The 96-hour strike is set to last until Friday.

Total (TOTF.PA) said that only about 5 percent of its refinery staff were on strike and that its five refineries were storing their production while shipments were blocked by union picket lines.

“There is no risk of shortages,” Total said.

Unions have vowed to halt the reforms, which are a central part of President Emmanuel Macron’s agenda. Nationwide strikes and demonstrations have shut schools and closed transport services, while demonstrations have led to clashes with the police. Unions are planning a fourth day of nationwide demonstrations on Thursday.


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  #492  
Old 01-10-2020, 07:38 AM
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CHILE

https://www.americasquarterly.org/co...pension-system
Quote:
Solving Chile’s Crisis Starts With Fixing Its Pension System
BY JORGE HEINE | JANUARY 8, 2020
Protesters cite the Pinochet-era retirement scheme as their top grievance. Fixing it will mean a return to basic principles of social security.

Spoiler:
As Chile’s protests continue into the new year, it is important to understand the reasons behind the public’s frustration – and for policymakers to come up with ways to address it. In that, no issue is more important than Chile’s private pension scheme, singled out in opinion polls as the most important issue for the protesters.

Set up in 1982, at the height of the Pinochet dictatorship, the system’s pension payments for retirees are now starting to kick in. Although the system was sold on the claim that people would be able to retire on 70% of their salaries, they have instead been receiving a mere 20% to 30% of their wages. The average pension paid to men in 2018 was 150,000 pesos (around $200). For women, the average was 110,00 – a third of Chile’s minimum wage.

It is thus easy to understand why the system has drawn such ire. Indeed, some 80% of pensioners receive less than the minimum wage each month. In a country with one of the highest costs of living in Latin America, this has left many elderly Chileans destitute, often forced to rely on relatives to make ends meet or beg for food and money. In some cases, that has not been enough – the suicide rate among those in their 70s and 80s is the highest of any age group.

Fixing the system is thus an urgent requirement, both to heal the wounds of the current crisis and for the country’s long-term health. That means moving away from a system based on individual retirement accounts and employee-only contributions to one based on the traditional principles of social security. These include tripartite contributions (employee, employer and government) and inter-generational, inter-gender and inter-social classes transfers, none of which happen in the current scheme.

When it was first introduced, the Chilean pension system was one of the most radical social experiments in market fundamentalism ever undertaken. It replaced the traditional pay-as-you-go public and private pension systems for one based on IRAs run by for-profit private companies. A transition period was allowed, but all newcomers to the labor force had to join this scheme.

Although untested, these private pension schemes were presented as a panacea to cure the ills of social security systems worldwide. They would be sustainable (relieving public budgets), fair (doing away with the differences between the myriad extant public and private systems) and better for beneficiaries (who would get higher pensions). The World Bank promoted them, lending $5.4 billion to 68 countries from 1984 to 2004 to reform their social security systems in this direction.

Some 22 countries around the world adopted this type of scheme, 10 of them in Latin America, though Argentina, Hungary and Poland, among others, have since recanted. In 2005, even the United States toyed with the idea of (partially) privatizing Social Security along similar lines, though nothing came of it.

For countries that pursued this path, the results have fallen well short of what was promised. In Chile, the Administrators of Pension Funds (AFPs by their abbreviation in Spanish) that manage the system have been enormously profitable, accruing 25% annual returns on investment from 2006 to 2015. Controlled by Chile’s main economic groups, AFPs have accumulated $200 billion, a boon to the country’s capital market. But little of this bonanza reaches the pensioners.

Chilean officials have made some efforts to introduce an added level of fairness into the system. In 2008, officials introduced a reform increasing the so-called Minimum Solidarity Pension to supplement the lowest earners’ income. A measure of gender equity was also introduced into the supplementary payment. Yet the basic pillars of the scheme remained intact.

In 2013, a new social movement called “No +AFPs,” took to the streets, demanding the end of the system. The same grievances aired back then remain a key element of the protests today. Yet the government’s tin-eared response led to a proposed bill in Congress that only tinkered on the edges of the current system, leaving intact the basic elements of the scheme. The bill submitted before the protests projected to increase the level of pensions benefits 40 years from now. Chileans should not have to wait that long. Nearly four decades since the introduction of the current system, the evidence is in. The experiment in private pension schemes pioneered by Chile is a failure.

To be sure, the system’s basic allure – the relief of fiscal pressure on the public purse – is true enough. It is projected that, all else being equal, by 2030 Chile’s fiscal budget would need only need to allocate 1.3% of GDP to civilian pensions, compared to the OECD average of 7.7%

But as a recent report from the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) titled Pension Systems at the Crossroads underlines, by privileging sustainability at the expense of the other two key pillars of social security systems – that is, coverage and actual benefits – private pension schemes have simply shifted the burden of balancing the fiscal budget on to pensioners. In fact, these schemes should not be considered social security at all, but rather mandatory individual savings plans to be managed by third parties for their own profit – a very different thing.

What’s more, these systems are particularly unsuitable for Latin American countries like Chile, where a significant part of the labor force works in the informal sector (in Chile, it is nearly half). Many others work only intermittently (leading to a low density of contributions), and since women bear such a heavy burden of unpaid work, the benefits they receive are especially meager.

What to do?

Argentina, after renationalizing its pension system, now has greater coverage and pays higher pensions than does Chile. Yet, in the Chilean context, an “Argentine solution” is improbable. A first step in the right direction would be a mixed system of pay-as-you-go and the current IRAs. Let the AFPs continue to manage the $200 billion they have amassed, but legislate so that, in the future, the 10% deducted from all Chileans’ paychecks up to 450,000 pesos (which covers 80% of Chileans' salaries) goes into a public, pay-as-you-go system. Those who want to add further to their IRAs to increase their pensions would be welcome to do so.

The most developed country in Latin America cannot go on denying a dignified old age to its senior citizens.

--

Heine is a research professor at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, a Wilson Center global fellow and a former Cabinet minister in the Chilean government.


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  #493  
Old 01-10-2020, 07:42 AM
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FRANCE

https://www.wvxu.org/post/french-sup...plans#stream/0
Quote:
French Support Unions' Opposition To Streamlining Retirement Plans
Spoiler:
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today a French rail strike enters its second month. Rail workers are protesting President Emmanuel Macron's plan to change the country's retirement system. That has led to significant travel disruptions. But despite that, a slight majority of the French still support the strikes. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: With the holiday lull over, Parisians are now back in the streets battling their way to work. Commuters waiting for a bus on a main avenue get ready to fight for a seat when it arrives. On Day 33 of the transport walkout, even strike-hardened Parisians are starting to crack. Sixty-year-old Jean Timoret (ph) says it can't go on much longer.

JEAN TIMORET: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "I hope the government and the unions reach a compromise to stop the strike soon," he says, "because it's becoming stressful."

Mathieu Grall (ph) says getting to work from the suburbs takes planning.

MATHIEU GRALL: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "You've got to get up earlier, be more organized and have a good pair of sneakers," he says.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE SOUNDING)

BEARDSLEY: With the Metro paralyzed and streets snarled in traffic, people have been walking hours to get to their jobs. More than a million rides have been clocked on the city's public bike scheme, and electric scooter rentals are up 150%.

The strikers holding Parisians hostage are the train and Paris Metro drivers who benefit from perks they don't want to give up, like early retirement for a job that was once considered physical hardship. That's changed, says butcher Alain David, who's cutting up a piece of beef behind his counter. David's grandfather was a train driver before World War II.

ALAIN DAVID: (Through interpreter). Back then, it was a very hard job. He shoveled coal. And when he came home, he was black, and it was in his lungs. It's no longer the case. They just press buttons. So they got a change, but they don't want to give up their generous benefits.

BEARDSLEY: But for now, David is in the minority. Polls show a majority of the French support the striking train drivers who are seen as fighting a reform no one trusts. Macron says his retirement overhaul will streamline the country's 42 different retirement plans into one universal system that is based on points, not what job you have, and is more egalitarian.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LAURENT BERGER: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: That's Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFD union, who spoke on the news last night. Berger says his union could support Macron's plan if he takes out the clause raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERGER: (Through interpreter) This new age is unfair because it will penalize those who started working young. Economists agree that it's unnecessary, and people are against it.

BEARDSLEY: Macron needs Berger's support because the other main union, the CGT, rejects his plan entirely. But the government says it won't budge on the retirement age, so it's been compromising in other ways to court the moderate unions and win public opinion. Firefighters, airline pilots and police get to keep their special retirement privileges.

(SOUNDBITE OF TCHAIKOVSKY'S "SWAN LAKE, OP. 20")

BEARDSLEY: And when the national ballet danced in protest to "Swan Lake" on the steps of the opera house, they were allowed to keep their retirement age of 42, which was granted to opera dancers by Louis XIV.

This will be a crucial week. The prime minister meets with union leaders to try to work out a compromise, and the hard-line unions have called for more nationwide protests against Macron's reform. They're hoping the public will continue to support them.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE AMERICAN DOLLAR'S "GHOSTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


https://www.thelocal.fr/20200106/fre...ent-want-to-do
Quote:
French pension reforms: What's the fuss all about?
With strikes over France's planned pension reforms passing the one-month mark - and talks due to restart between the government and the unions - here's a reminder of what it's all about.

Spoiler:
The French government has spent two years consulting on its plans for pension reform, but the full details of what it actually intends to do were revealed by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe shortly before Christmas.

READ ALSO How do French pensions compare to the rest of Europe

Unions have already declared many aspects of the plans unacceptable and on December 5th transport workers began mass strike action, now in its second month and the longest-running transport strike in recent French history.

Talks restart on Tuesday, December 7th and more concessions could be offered, but here are the main principles of the government's idea;

A universal system - this is the over-riding principle of the reforms.

Instead of the current system of 42 different pension regimes, with big differences in both how pensions are calculated and the age that workers can retire at, the government wants to introduce a systèm universel which would be the same for everyone.

Invoking the French principles of solidarité and egalité, Philippe announced the end of the 'special regimes' which allow - for example - Metro drivers to retire at the age of 55 and announced that in the future everyone would be on the same pension regime with "no exceptions".

This is the issue that has caused widespread anger among transport workers, the majority of whom are currently on special regimes. But although the current system works well for some people, in particular public sector workers, others such as low-paid workers in the private sector, farmers and women who take career breaks to look after children lose out.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED What are 'special' pension regimes and why are French people striking to protect them?



Striking workers protested the government's plan to enforce a universal pension system in Paris. Photo:AFP

A points-based system - Under the new system "every hour worked will earn rights". The major reason for the big disparities in pensions under the current system lies in how they are calculated. For workers on special regimes their pension is worked out based solely on their salary during the final six months of their career, while many others have a calculated based on their highest earnings over 25 years.

The government wants to bring in a system which counts a person's whole career, with every euro earned gaining that person 'points' towards their pensions.

A fairer deal for women - Women "will be the big winners of a universal system" said Philippe. Time out of the workplace for maternity leave will be compensated by 100 percent and extra pension provision will be added for mothers from their first child, not from the third as is the current system.

A minimum monthly payment - €1,000 per month minimum, with pensions pegged to the French minimum wage going forward, so that no pensioner will be getting less than 85 percent of the minimum wage of the day.

Start date - the reforms will be introduced in phases, with anyone born before 1975 not affected at all. The government previously planned to include everyone born in 1963 or later, but chose to push back the age-limit in response to the strikes. Those entering the labour market for the first time in 2022 will be put straight on to the universal system, with changed phased in gradually for those in between.

No change to the legal retirement age - the legal age to retire will remain at 62, but a 'pivot age' - where the maximum pension kicks in - will be introduced at 64. Although 62 is the current legal age, many people who are on 'special regimes' in fact retire earlier and the average retirement age in France is 60. If special regimes are scrapped, the average retirement age will likely rise.

However Philippe did add that there would be provision for people doing certain physically demanding jobs, such as nurses, to retire two years earlier. Police officers, firefighters, prison guards and soldiers would also continue to benefit from early retirement provision.

READ ALSO: How do French pensions compare to the rest of Europe?


CGT union leader Philippe Martinez has previously said only a complete U-turn from the government would stop them from striking. Photo: AFP

Teachers - Teachers have been joining the strike, worried that a universal system would see their pensions - currently calculated based on their final six months salary - lowered. They were singled out in the speech, with Philippe saying: "It would be unacceptable for teachers to lose a single euro of their pension". The Prime Minister did not specify how this would be ensured.

Self employed - Proposals were suggested for a reform to the system for self-employed workers, but on a longer time frame, with Philippe suggesting a "15-year horizon" for the changes. In the meantime, the pension pots that self-employed workers have built up will not be transferred into the universal system.

Philippe concluded his announcement by saying: "I do not underestimate the complexity of this reform.

"We are gradually transforming the French pension system to build a stronger, simpler, fairer system. We are implementing new social advances".

The next stage in the process is for the proposals to be presented to ministers on January 22nd then debated in the French parliament, which will happen at the end of February.


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  #494  
Old 01-10-2020, 07:43 AM
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FRANCE

https://www.wvxu.org/post/french-sup...plans#stream/0
Quote:
French Support Unions' Opposition To Streamlining Retirement Plans
Spoiler:
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today a French rail strike enters its second month. Rail workers are protesting President Emmanuel Macron's plan to change the country's retirement system. That has led to significant travel disruptions. But despite that, a slight majority of the French still support the strikes. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: With the holiday lull over, Parisians are now back in the streets battling their way to work. Commuters waiting for a bus on a main avenue get ready to fight for a seat when it arrives. On Day 33 of the transport walkout, even strike-hardened Parisians are starting to crack. Sixty-year-old Jean Timoret (ph) says it can't go on much longer.

JEAN TIMORET: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "I hope the government and the unions reach a compromise to stop the strike soon," he says, "because it's becoming stressful."

Mathieu Grall (ph) says getting to work from the suburbs takes planning.

MATHIEU GRALL: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "You've got to get up earlier, be more organized and have a good pair of sneakers," he says.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE SOUNDING)

BEARDSLEY: With the Metro paralyzed and streets snarled in traffic, people have been walking hours to get to their jobs. More than a million rides have been clocked on the city's public bike scheme, and electric scooter rentals are up 150%.

The strikers holding Parisians hostage are the train and Paris Metro drivers who benefit from perks they don't want to give up, like early retirement for a job that was once considered physical hardship. That's changed, says butcher Alain David, who's cutting up a piece of beef behind his counter. David's grandfather was a train driver before World War II.

ALAIN DAVID: (Through interpreter). Back then, it was a very hard job. He shoveled coal. And when he came home, he was black, and it was in his lungs. It's no longer the case. They just press buttons. So they got a change, but they don't want to give up their generous benefits.

BEARDSLEY: But for now, David is in the minority. Polls show a majority of the French support the striking train drivers who are seen as fighting a reform no one trusts. Macron says his retirement overhaul will streamline the country's 42 different retirement plans into one universal system that is based on points, not what job you have, and is more egalitarian.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LAURENT BERGER: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: That's Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFD union, who spoke on the news last night. Berger says his union could support Macron's plan if he takes out the clause raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERGER: (Through interpreter) This new age is unfair because it will penalize those who started working young. Economists agree that it's unnecessary, and people are against it.

BEARDSLEY: Macron needs Berger's support because the other main union, the CGT, rejects his plan entirely. But the government says it won't budge on the retirement age, so it's been compromising in other ways to court the moderate unions and win public opinion. Firefighters, airline pilots and police get to keep their special retirement privileges.

(SOUNDBITE OF TCHAIKOVSKY'S "SWAN LAKE, OP. 20")

BEARDSLEY: And when the national ballet danced in protest to "Swan Lake" on the steps of the opera house, they were allowed to keep their retirement age of 42, which was granted to opera dancers by Louis XIV.

This will be a crucial week. The prime minister meets with union leaders to try to work out a compromise, and the hard-line unions have called for more nationwide protests against Macron's reform. They're hoping the public will continue to support them.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE AMERICAN DOLLAR'S "GHOSTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


https://www.thelocal.fr/20200106/fre...ent-want-to-do
Quote:
French pension reforms: What's the fuss all about?
With strikes over France's planned pension reforms passing the one-month mark - and talks due to restart between the government and the unions - here's a reminder of what it's all about.

Spoiler:
The French government has spent two years consulting on its plans for pension reform, but the full details of what it actually intends to do were revealed by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe shortly before Christmas.

READ ALSO How do French pensions compare to the rest of Europe

Unions have already declared many aspects of the plans unacceptable and on December 5th transport workers began mass strike action, now in its second month and the longest-running transport strike in recent French history.

Talks restart on Tuesday, December 7th and more concessions could be offered, but here are the main principles of the government's idea;

A universal system - this is the over-riding principle of the reforms.

Instead of the current system of 42 different pension regimes, with big differences in both how pensions are calculated and the age that workers can retire at, the government wants to introduce a systèm universel which would be the same for everyone.

Invoking the French principles of solidarité and egalité, Philippe announced the end of the 'special regimes' which allow - for example - Metro drivers to retire at the age of 55 and announced that in the future everyone would be on the same pension regime with "no exceptions".

This is the issue that has caused widespread anger among transport workers, the majority of whom are currently on special regimes. But although the current system works well for some people, in particular public sector workers, others such as low-paid workers in the private sector, farmers and women who take career breaks to look after children lose out.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED What are 'special' pension regimes and why are French people striking to protect them?



Striking workers protested the government's plan to enforce a universal pension system in Paris. Photo:AFP

A points-based system - Under the new system "every hour worked will earn rights". The major reason for the big disparities in pensions under the current system lies in how they are calculated. For workers on special regimes their pension is worked out based solely on their salary during the final six months of their career, while many others have a calculated based on their highest earnings over 25 years.

The government wants to bring in a system which counts a person's whole career, with every euro earned gaining that person 'points' towards their pensions.

A fairer deal for women - Women "will be the big winners of a universal system" said Philippe. Time out of the workplace for maternity leave will be compensated by 100 percent and extra pension provision will be added for mothers from their first child, not from the third as is the current system.

A minimum monthly payment - €1,000 per month minimum, with pensions pegged to the French minimum wage going forward, so that no pensioner will be getting less than 85 percent of the minimum wage of the day.

Start date - the reforms will be introduced in phases, with anyone born before 1975 not affected at all. The government previously planned to include everyone born in 1963 or later, but chose to push back the age-limit in response to the strikes. Those entering the labour market for the first time in 2022 will be put straight on to the universal system, with changed phased in gradually for those in between.

No change to the legal retirement age - the legal age to retire will remain at 62, but a 'pivot age' - where the maximum pension kicks in - will be introduced at 64. Although 62 is the current legal age, many people who are on 'special regimes' in fact retire earlier and the average retirement age in France is 60. If special regimes are scrapped, the average retirement age will likely rise.

However Philippe did add that there would be provision for people doing certain physically demanding jobs, such as nurses, to retire two years earlier. Police officers, firefighters, prison guards and soldiers would also continue to benefit from early retirement provision.

READ ALSO: How do French pensions compare to the rest of Europe?


CGT union leader Philippe Martinez has previously said only a complete U-turn from the government would stop them from striking. Photo: AFP

Teachers - Teachers have been joining the strike, worried that a universal system would see their pensions - currently calculated based on their final six months salary - lowered. They were singled out in the speech, with Philippe saying: "It would be unacceptable for teachers to lose a single euro of their pension". The Prime Minister did not specify how this would be ensured.

Self employed - Proposals were suggested for a reform to the system for self-employed workers, but on a longer time frame, with Philippe suggesting a "15-year horizon" for the changes. In the meantime, the pension pots that self-employed workers have built up will not be transferred into the universal system.

Philippe concluded his announcement by saying: "I do not underestimate the complexity of this reform.

"We are gradually transforming the French pension system to build a stronger, simpler, fairer system. We are implementing new social advances".

The next stage in the process is for the proposals to be presented to ministers on January 22nd then debated in the French parliament, which will happen at the end of February.


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https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/11/w...-protests.html

Quote:
Macron Scraps Proposal to Raise Retirement Age in France
Faced with an unrelenting protest over proposed changes in France’s generous pension system, officials withdraw a move to raise the full-benefit retirement age to 64 from the present 62.

Spoiler:
PARIS — With tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators once again coursing through the streets of Paris and other cities and clouds of tear gas and smashed store windows punctuating the urban landscape, the French government made a major concession on Saturday to unions protesting its pension reform plan.
It agreed to scrap, for now at least, a proposal to raise the full-benefits retirement age from 62 to 64. Unlike in the United States, the French government plays a huge role in the retirement plans of individuals in France, both as a source of funds and as overseer and guarantor of the pension system.
The raised age had infuriated moderate unions that the government of President Emmanuel Macron badly needs on its side. Mr. Macron has insisted the French need to work longer to strengthen a generous retirement system that is one of the world’s most generous but may be heading toward a $19 billion deficit.
On Saturday, with a crippling transport strike already in its sixth week, Mr. Macron’s government backed down, announcing that it would “withdraw” the new age limit, and put off decisions on financing the system until it gets a report on the money problem “between now and the end of April.”

But the government did not entirely rule out the idea of reintroducing a new retirement age if funding solutions to the pensions deficit are not reached.
And the government’s concession is unlikely to end either the strike or the demonstrations. The more militant unions — and the ones most heavily represented in the railways and the Paris subway — are demanding that Mr. Macron abandon his entire reform plan.
The demand in the streets Saturday was for precisely that. The mood was militant, and the more violent demonstrators once again clashed with the police, even as they sowed a trail of damage through eastern Paris. A bank branch was sacked, and bus shelters smashed and fires set. Unions said 150,000 protesters were in the streets of Paris on Saturday.
“We’ve got to continue to mobilize, until they pull the whole plan, pure and simple,” Eric Coquerel, a representative in Parliament and a leading voice in the far-left France Unbowed party, told French television Saturday afternoon, as police sirens blared in the background.
Mr. Macron’s prime minister, Edouard Philippe, announced the concession.
The moderate French Democratic Confederation of Labor, or CFDT, which has long been calling for the withdrawal of the new retirement age, welcomed the government’s move on Saturday, which it said had shown “the government’s willingness to compromise.”
The far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, called the government’s move a “dishonest” negotiating tactic.
“You introduce something that’s unacceptable, and then you withdraw it,” she told French media. Like other opposition figures, Ms. Le Pen has been demanding the government withdraw its whole plan. “Nothing justifies this reform,” she said.
Mr. Macron has insisted that his retirement plan represents a fair, rational response to the new world of work, where careers are interrupted and French citizens no longer stay in the same job for life.
The plan would replace the current system of 42 different pension regimes, most tailored to match individual professions, with a single, points-based system that will be the same for everybody. Workers would accumulate points, then cash them in at the end. Bus drivers in Toulouse would get the same retirement benefits as those in Paris — not now the case, as the Paris system has some of the country’s most generous benefits.
Now, workers in the private and public sector get pension benefits based on the salaries of their best working years. That system would end.
The French, though, are uneasy with Mr. Macron’s proposals. Although polls show they support some form of universal pension plan, they are also deeply attached to a system which has achieved among the lowest old-age poverty rates in the world.
Faced with weeks of strikes and mass demonstrations that have ripped into the economy, Mr. Macron’s government has been forced to carve out a series of concessions to individual professions in recent days — the police, dancers at the Paris Opera, nurses, airline flight attendants, pilots — moving back toward precisely the same type of tailored retirement structure his reform sought to end.
On Saturday crowds of strikers, unionists and hard-core demonstrators began gathering early, with the sprawling Place de la Nation in eastern Paris packed by early afternoon. Revolutionary hymns from Latin America blared over the loudspeakers, as did rap mocking Mr. Macron.
Philippe Martinez, leader of the hard-line General Confederation of Workers, or CGT, which is calling for scrapping the whole reform, said in a brief interview before the start of the march that the “government has had its back up against the wall for some time. But it is obstinately refusing to listen to the opinions of the majority of French.”
Later, Mr. Martinez, at the head of the march, told reporters the issue of the new age limit “is a red herring.” The solution to the pensions-funding problem was simple, he insisted: raise salaries.



http://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20200113...hilippe-unions
Quote:
French strike continues despite government concession on age

The strike against pension reform is now into its seventh week, and is still causing major delays on to Paris public transport system. Despite an offer from the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to withdraw the age limit of 64 to qualify for a full pension, most trade unions say the protest will continue.


Spoiler:
The strike goes on. The national high-speed rail network was back to “nearly normal” on Monday, according to the SNCF train company, with 80 percent of TGVs running. Seven of ten local services were back in business, but only 40 percent of intercity trains.

Things are officially “getting better” in Paris, but that means roughly half the normal number of long-distance suburban trains, and a greatly reduced service in the metro.

The forecast for Tuesday is for another day of major complication for the capital’s commuters.

Offer falls on deaf ears

In a letter published at the weekend, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe offered to “provisionally withdraw” the question of the so-called “pivot age” from the retirement pension reform bill to be presented to parliament next month.

The government originally insisted that, to make retirement self-financing, the French would have to work longer to qualify for a full pension. The new law would move the current departure age of 62 years, to 64.

That age limit has been one of the major sticking points in the dispute.

The government offer has a sting in the tail: the 64-year limit will be withdrawn, leaving the trade unions until the end of April to propose a different way of ensuring that the pension system becomes self-financing by 2027.

Without reform the retirement budget will be, in the best-case scenario, at least 8 billion euros in debt by 2025 – in the worst case, 17 billion euros in the red.

The new deal is simple: there’ll be a second reading of the reform bill in May, at which stage the government will add in the solution proposed by the trade unions.

If there is no such magic formula, the government will make its own decision about how to ensure financial equilibrium. “I will face up to my responsibilities,” the prime minister said.

Broadly negative reaction

Right now, nobody seems to be buying what Edouard Philippe is trying to give away.

“Communists, socialists, far-left and Greens denounce a trap,” reads one headline in centrist daily Le Monde.

“Hostile unions condemn deceitful manouvre,” is how right-wing Le Figaro sums up the reaction of most labour organisations.

“Unions divided by government gesture,” is how left-leaning Libération sees the situation. They base that on the fact that the moderate CFDT and some smaller groups have welcomed the withdrawal of the pivot age as “a victory,” while the majority of the labour organisations have cried foul, describing the latest proposition as “a fraud”, “a sham”, “a ruse,” or “a hoax”.

Other bones of contention

Le Figaro reminds readers that, even if the pivot age is the biggest stumbling block, there are still plenty of other bones of contention . . . the introduction of a points-based pension system, and the end of special privileges, for example.

Speaking on national television on Sunday night, Edouard Philippe said he was determined “to create a universal, points-based system, stronger, simpler and fairer than the current set-up,” and which will do away with the current multitude of special arrangements.

He also said he was determined to see this reform through to the end.

The unsatisfied unions have promised new nationwide demonstrations against the proposals for 14, 15 and 16 January.


https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Euro...st-of-politics
Quote:
French pension-reform strikes hide deeper issue – distrust of politics
WHY WE WROTE THIS
Disgust with politicians has serious practical implications. In France, where the public largely agrees that the pension system needs reforming, the country is racked by protests because few trust the government to do the job.


Spoiler:
As hundreds of thousands of striking workers and their supporters took to the streets of France Thursday, demonstrating against government plans to reform the pension system, the authorities faced an even deeper problem.

Behind the protests lies a wholesale disgust with politics and politicians that bodes ill for French democracy.

Railway workers nationwide and public transport workers in the capital, Paris, have been on strike for five weeks to block President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plans. The longest such strike in 50 years has made life a misery for commuters and travelers, and polls have found three quarters of the population agreeing that France’s complex and deficit-ridden pension system needs reforming.


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Yet public support for the strikers’ battle to defend one of the most generous pension systems in the world remains strong. According to a poll published Sunday, 44% support or sympathize with the strike, outweighing the 37% who are opposed or hostile to it.

“Support for the strikes is astonishingly high, considering the inconvenience they are causing,” says Bruno Cautrès, who directs the annual Political Trust Barometer published by Cevipof, a Paris-based think tank. “That’s because there is a high level of social anxiety in the country that Macron has not calmed.”


How political tribalism is leading to more political hypocrisy
The government has in fact fed that anxiety, some observers say, by failing to set out clearly how different citizens’ pensions would be affected by the proposed reform.

“Mistrust is at the heart of this movement,” says Pascal Perrineau, a leading political analyst. “People are saying ‘no’ to everything. We are reaching a point where the level of distrust is making it very difficult for the government to govern.”

A system in under strain
Pensions in France are high by international standards. The government devotes 14.3% of GDP to pension payouts, more than any other developed country aside from Italy and Greece and twice as much as in the United States.

A recent independent report, however, predicted that the system could be running an annual deficit of $19 billion by 2025 because demographic changes mean fewer workers are paying contributions and more retirees are drawing benefits.

The system is also complicated, incorporating 42 different pension funds with widely differing rules for different professions and a number of “special regimes” for particular categories of work regarded as especially hard. Railway engine drivers, for example, can retire at 52 with a pension worth 75% of their last salary, although the official retirement age is 62.

The government is planning to introduce a single state-run system, which it says would be fairer, and to encourage people to work a year or two longer so as to balance the books. President Macron vowed to “carry the reform through to the end” in his New Year address to the nation.

But the ham-fisted job the government has made of explaining the reform has fed fears of subterfuge and accusations that its hidden purpose is simply to make people work longer for a smaller pension.


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“All the polls show that the French have very deep questions and worries about this reform,” says Dr. Cautrès.

And their worries are broader, suggests Professor Perrineau, one of five public figures invited by President Macron to oversee a “great debate” last year designed to let citizens express their frustrations and their opinions. As President Macron has sought to modernize the country’s economy, “people see what reforms take away from them, but not what they might bring,” Professor Perrineau says.

Some of that attitude is revealed in explanations given for strike funds launched by unions and private citizens. At Christmas, a group of actors, writers, and intellectuals called for contributions to support strikers “defending one of our common goods, a pension system ... that is the fruit of our elders’ struggles.” Such drives are reported to have garnered nearly $2 million.

At the same time, Professor Perrineau adds, “The French make it clear what they reject – the technocratic style of an arrogant administration. But it’s hard to see what they propose as an alternative. It is the politicization of the negative.”

A gap in trust
Underlying that attitude is a deep mistrust of the establishment, revealed in the annual Political Trust Barometer. Last year’s survey found that 73% of the French had little or no trust in their elected representatives in parliament, and that 70% do not believe French democracy is working well.

Only 27% put any faith in trade unions, and a paltry 9% trust the country’s political parties. Those kinds of numbers explain why the Economist Intelligence Unit last year ranked the quality of democracy in France only 16th among 20 Western European nations.


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This year’s barometer, due to be published later this month, will find trust levels falling even further, predicts Dr. Cautrès. “I see nothing that would change the trend.”

The weakness of such intermediary bodies as trade unions (only 11% of French workers are unionized, scarcely more than in the United States) dates back to the French revolution, whose ban on guilds and professional associations remains “subconsciously in the French mind” even though it was lifted in the late 19th century, and unions flourished after World War II, says Professor Perrineau.

Political parties have fallen in the public estimation more recently, he says. Having elected a right-wing president in Nicolas Sarkozy, a left-wing one in François Hollande and a “neither-left-nor-right” candidate at the head of a brand new party in Emmanuel Macron, “voters have not seen their situation improve,” says Professor Perrineau. “So they are angry, and they just reject everything.”

On a continent where dissatisfaction with traditional elites is widespread, France could be the canary in the coal mine, he warns. “Unless our political leaders can make sense of the changes that globalization has brought,” he says, “they are going to be in very deep trouble.”


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https://www.theguardian.com/commenti...two-steps-back



Quote:
The Guardian view on Macron’s pensions retreat: one step forward, two steps back
Editorial
The French president must learn the lessons of the concession he has made on pension reform – or he risks the far right exploiting this battle at the next election

Spoiler:
n the end, Emmanuel Macron seems prepared to compromise. After six weeks of strikes involving rail employees, teachers, nurses, ballet dancers, lawyers, concierges, pilots and drivers on the Paris Métro, the French government has announced a major concession to unions: the withdrawal of a proposal to raise the country’s full benefits retirement age from 62 to 64. Mr Macron described the concession as a “constructive compromise”, following the longest mass walkout by transport workers since 1968.

The strike is not over yet. But the French president, above all, does not want a galling defeat for the Élysée. Projecting an air of steely resolution, Mr Macron has made it his mission to challenge some of the cherished securities of France’s postwar economic settlement. His labour market reforms have made it easier to hire and fire workers. Benefits to the jobless have been cut, as unemployment has come down. More low-wage jobs have been created.

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The reform of the complicated state pension system was to be the crowning achievement of Mr Macron’s five-year term – an indication of his determination to adapt France to the harsh verities of the 21st-century global economy. At times, he has seemed almost to take umbrage at some of his compatriots’ insistence that the French should continue to retire earlier than, for example, their neighbours in Germany (where the retirement age is going up to 67). The government is not budging on the crux of its reform – a plan to rationalise the country’s 42 existing pension regimes into a single, points-based system, which it says will be fairer and more transparent. But the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, has promised discussions on alternatives to raising the retirement age.


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When workers take to the streets in Paris, the rest of Europe tends, with a touch of schadenfreude, to sit back and enjoy the show. Drawing on their revolutionary heritage, the French know how to protest with panache. But it would be wrong to treat the latest round of protests, and Mr Macron’s climbdown, as just another case of Gallic exceptionalism. The resistance campaign on the streets was also a symptom of deep and structural problems that go well beyond French borders.

Across Europe, as governments navigate a postindustrial economy in which automation will make good jobs even scarcer, they are struggling to fund acceptable futures for swathes of their populations. For those not connected to the wealthy enclaves of hi-tech and high-end services, insecurity is growing, horizons are narrowing and there is a sense of rising anomie. The problem of ageing populations, and how to pay for their pensions and care, is adding to the burden.

In this context, Brexit, though originally a project of the Eurosceptic right, became a vehicle through which to express popular discontent in Britain. In France, resentments have been channelled first through the gilets jaunes movement and now the massive pensions protests. Outside his own country, Mr Macron is generally viewed as a moderate, liberal figure. But for a large part of his presidency French cities and towns have been centres of regular, angry protest – a record that Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National will seek to exploit in 2022.

France, like the rest of Europe, faces economic challenges on multiple fronts: populations are growing older and the future of work is uncertain and precarious. In an age of insecurity, people are fighting to keep hold of what they have. Mr Macron will need to make a better offer on pensions.



https://harris-interactive.fr/opinio...peeBV6jCWXUEr4

[translated from French]

Quote:
MOBILIZATION OBSERVATORY AGAINST PENSION REFORM - 8TH WAVE
HARRIS INTERACTIVE SURVEY FOR RTL AND AEF INFO
Survey carried out online on January 13, 2020. Sample of 1015 people, representative of French people aged 18 and over. Quota method and adjustment applied to the following variables: sex, age, socio-professional category and region of residence of the interviewee.

Spoiler:
Questioned after the Prime Minister's announcement of the provisional withdrawal of the pivotal age and the various reactions including that of Laurent Berger, the French do not radically change their opinion with regard to social mobilization : 60% of those questioned indicate support it, the same proportion as a week ago.



Everything happens as if there had been a before and after December 11 (date on which Édouard Philippe presented the main orientations before the Economic, Social and Environmental Council) and as if, since then, opinions had crystallized. Following the Prime Minister's statement in mid-December, we observed a downward trend in support for the mobilization of the electorates of Marine Le Pen (above three-quarters previously, today closer to two-thirds) and above all a significant drop in support from François Fillon voters in 2017. More than half said, before mid-December, their support for the mobilization; they are only a third today.



Basically, 54% of French people believe that the age of balance is a bad thing (52% last week) and 56% doubt that an agreement will be found . On this point, 58% of French people supporting the mobilization believe that the pivotal age will - in the end - be part of the reform, as do almost 60% of voters on the left, as well as the far right. Only a (small) majority of voters (55%) of Emmanuel Macron anticipates an agreement.



Confidence in trade union organizations remains stable (45%, +1 point in a week), while that in the government tends to fall 28%, -3 points in a week, - 6 since mid-December. Concerning the executive, it is mainly among those close to the right that confidence is eroded: 40% of François Fillon's voters place their trust in the government, against 52% last week.




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I'm beginning to wonder if France just needs its own thread at this point.

inb4 dedicated pensions thread for Illinois.
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Hmmm, maybe.

Thing is, this could end up being like Brazil - spate of protest activity, etc., something happens, and then it quiets down.

[also, I like having these all in one thread for my own convenience. ]

It's more that I'm interested in the general trend of dealing with an aging population with sub-replacement birth rates, than I'm interested in any specific non-U.S. country
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UNITED KINGDOM

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/.../#49a33d7a3478

Quote:
Pension Strikes In France, Reform In The UK, And The Third-Rail-Ness Of Social Security Reform

Spoiler:
It’s a tale of two state pension reforms.

In France, it’s day 44 of a strike by trade unions opposing a Social Security reform which, despite some reporting suggesting it’s only government employees who are affected, will transform pension benefits for all workers in the country. In recent days, the government has proposed reducing the age for full pension eligibility from 66 to 64, and, as described at the Washington Post, “the worst of the transit strikes has ended, with train service by and large back up but at reduced capacity.

But, remarkably, the latest polling, released three days ago, shows little movement in public opinion since the strikes began on December 5th, as evidenced by the overall stability in support for the protests and strikes, here,

France pension strike
Support for protests and strikes against pension reforms in FranceDATA FROM HARRIS INTERACTIVE POLLING, HTTPS://HARRIS-INTERACTIVE.FR/WP-CON..._RETRAITES.PDF

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and the relatively slight movements in opinions on the pension reform itself.

France pension reform
French opinion on pension reformsDATA FROM HARRIS INTERACTIVE POLLING, HTTPS://HARRIS-INTERACTIVE.FR/OPINIO...ITES-8E-VAGUE/
Today In: Money
At the same time, let’s pay a visit to the United Kingdom.

Readers who have followed my writing from my first articles here at Forbes will recall my early profile of the state pension system in the UK, in which I described the pairing of a flat benefit and an autoenrollment system for individual retirement accounts — which just so happens to be very similar to my preferred Social Security reform for the U.S., though, to be clear, I first proposed this some years before the UK’s reform, which was proposed in 2014 and went into effect in 2016.

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Now, this was a dramatic change, as previously the system had been fairly similar to the American Social Security system, with benefits based on wages, but tilted towards lower earners. Did the British react to it in the same manner as the French, or as Americans are predicted to react if a wholesale reform of our Social Security system were to be attempted?

Eh, not so much.

To be honest, it was fairly difficult to find contemporaneous reporting about the change in the first place. An anti-poverty organization put together an interesting piece of analysis, but the mainstream news organizations didn’t seem to have much interest in this change at all, focusing instead on the “pension freedom” component to the legislation, in which workers with 401(k)/IRA-like retirement accounts were no longer required to buy annuities at retirement but could choose to spend down benefits no differently than Americans have been accustomed to all along. Another major change at that time was the end of “contracting out” in which an employer could keep the FICA taxes for themselves in return for providing pension benefits at a certain minimum level. Hence, the BBC reported, “Pension reform: Ten hidden consequences,” and the Financial Times, “Budget 2014: Pension reforms offer freedom to savers,” in both cases focusing exclusively on the “pension freedom” element of the changes.

Why did this legislation pass so invisibly in the UK? Actuaries in the UK tell me that there were multiple factors. First, the state-provided pension in France is, for most people (that is, by and large, except for top executives) the entirety of their retirement benefit, whereas the amount of Social Security in the UK had been more along the level of the US, or lower, so the stakes weren’t as high. It was also just the latest in a series of changes to the retirement age and the benefit formula, so that it didn’t necessarily register with people that there was a significant change. The British accepted the “sales pitch” that it was a positive change because it simplified the system. And, as evidenced by the complaints of the Waspis, people just weren’t aware of the changes (though that admittedly begs the question).

What does this say about the prospects for major Social Security reform in the United States? On the one hand, as with the UK, Social Security replaces a relatively small share of income for middle-income families. But on the other hand, as with France, Americans have been told for year after year that Social Security’s benefit formula was well-nigh untouchable, as if its designers were geniuses, in the same manner as the French have tried to reform their system for years, without success. And in that respect, we may have been better off if there had been more tinkering with the core benefit formula over the years rather than preserving it virtually unchanged since 1935.




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Old 01-17-2020, 07:17 AM
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https://www.reuters.com/article/us-f...-idUSKBN1ZE1TK
Quote:
French PM says transport strikes against pension reform will go nowhere

Spoiler:
PARIS (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Wednesday that public transport unions’ strikes will not succeed in stopping the government’s planned reform of the pension system.

“The transport strike against pension reform will go nowhere, the government is determined,” Philippe said in a speech.

Workers and national railway SNCF and Paris metro RATP have been on strike since Dec. 5, severely disrupting transport in the longest transport strike in decades.



https://abcnews.go.com/International...rikes-68327075
Quote:
New street protests in France amid pension strikes
Protesters marched in Paris and other French cities in a round of demonstrations against French President Emmanuel Macron's plans to overhaul the pension system

Spoiler:
PARIS -- Opponents of President Emmanuel Macron's proposed overhaul of France's pension system marched in Paris and other French cities Thursday on what is the 43rd day of strike action that has hobbled trains and public transport.

At the call of trade unions, train and metro workers, teachers and others took to the French capital's streets to demand that the government scrap its pension proposals.

Police were out in force but the march across southern Paris was calm, and the number of protesters was down compared to previous marches. The Interior Ministry put the number of marchers in the capital at 23,000 and 187,000 nationally — compared to a count by unions of 250,000.

Philippe Martinez, the leader of the far-left CGT union, said the det ermination "is just as big” as at the start of the strikes Dec.5

“It's never too late to make the government cede," he said.

The unions widely perceived to be most left-wing said they remained unsatisfied despite the government's decision last week to suspend a central piece of the proposed reform plan, that of raising the retirement age to qualify for a full pension from 62 to 64. They want the government to scrap other changes they fear would force them to work longer for less money.

Legislation incorporating other parts of the government's pension reform plan is to be presented at a Cabinet meeting next week. After that, there would be a three-month discussion with unions about financing the new pension system, including potential measures to raise taxes or the retirement age.

Macron says the new system, which aims at unifying 42 state-funded pension regimes, will be fairer and more sustainable.

“He (Macron) has always had disdain for us," said Eric Delaunay, a train driver. "43 days of strikes for railway workers, Metro workers and for some in the private sector and he is deaf to it.”

He said that he and his wife, also a railroad worker, prepared for the strike when money would be tight, packing the freezer and buying 25 kilos (55 pounds) of potatoes.

Macron called this week for “calm and clarity” and promised a better explanation of what the changes will mean for different French workers.

The weeks of strikes and protests have hobbled public transportation and disrupted schools, hospitals, courthouses and even opera houses.

While the number of striking workers has diminished, since Dec. 5,, the country's trains and Paris subways were still disrupted Thursday.


http://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20200116...ead-end-strike
Quote:
Fresh protests hope to breathe new life into France's 'dead end' strike

French unions are staging a sixth inter-professional day of protest Thursday, in an effort to expand their anti-pension-reform strikes beyond the transport sector – where they have begun to wane.


Spoiler:
This new national day of demonstrations will be a test for movement, with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe adamant the transport shutdown, now in its 43rd day, was at a “dead end” and would not derail the government's pensions overhaul.

Several of France’s hardline unions, the CGT, FO, Solidaires, FSU and CFE-CGC, along with three youth organisations, have organised rallies in cities across the country.

Protesters in Paris will march between Montparnasse and Place d'Italie this afternoon, with all shops and restaurants along the route ordered to close.


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In Paris, metros would be disrupted, but services running better than usual with all lines open. Normal traffic is expected on three lines, two of which are automatic.

National rail operator SNCF said 90 percent of its TGV and 80 percent of its TER trains would be running on Thursday.

Some schools are closed for the day as teachers join the 24-hour call to strike. Elsewhere seven sea ports are disrupted where blockades will continue until Friday.

A further three days of widespread protest are planned for 22, 23 and 24 January, when the pensions bill is examined by the Council of Ministers.


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