If you still didn’t hear in the news lately: in France are happening huge strikes, and work stoppage. A call for the population was launched on December 5 and the country was basically blocked all day long, from the flights, metro, buses, to the schools and works. Promised by Emmanuel Macron in his campaign program, the retirement system is announced to be reformed, to a “more universal equalitarian system, a system of social justice” (La République en Marche official speaker). Then, and as the CFDT already said, there is in theory nothing to protest about: this is a wonderfully surprising initiative. So why the hell is the population in the streets, messieurs dames? The shape of the reform, even if we have to precise in very first instance that no official document was yet released, is however likely to rely on the interpretation of Jean Paul Delevoye’s report, on which I will as well rely my statements. This report indeed states the deficit of the pension system: there is a gap between expenses and takings that could be from 7 to 17 billion according to the method of calculation. After this constatation, two methods of resorption are considered: an economic lens (lengthening of the contribution period, postponement of the retirement age, or reduction of pensions by deindexation), or a financing plan (find the funds through the contributions to reduce the deficit and balance the system again). The government, having ordered the report, was quick to use its emanating urgency to justify a drastic intervention on the current pension system. However, and I repeat it again, no official decision was made.
We could think then, as Macron have already let understood during a speech last week, that the protesters are reacting too early and without tangible reasons, but we are in this context talking about a people that is somehow revolting itself since years, culminating since the Yellow Vest Movement. Can we really condemn this preventive trend now in front of the executive, while since the beginning of Macron’s mandate everything is done to implicitly annihilate the lower classes’ rights?
“I won’t propose to change the age of retirement” said in 2017 our President, before being elected. Indeed, the age won’t be changed according to the report, and this precise aspect of the potential reform highlights a widely used demagogical trick. The retirement at the actual age, 62 years old, will simply not be awarded of any chance to perceive a decent pension as a living. To perceive your fully due amount, you will have to work til a minimum pivotal age (64 years old in 2025, indexed on the life expectancy in the future), stating that you worked during all your life with an increasing and comfortable incomes, as you never had one accident, a pregnancy break, or any kind of turbulence in your mechanical and naïve working life. The reform will likely include the suppression of all the special regimes (42 in total), some of them being for job sectors that fought for the recognition of the hardness of their working conditions: years of social gains through strike and dialogue that will disappear in smoke. The railwaymen, for example, already subjects of a reform in 2018 in the context of the emergency rethought of our national train company (SNCF) in an abyssal debt of 54,4 billions of euros, would lose their special regime that calculate their pension according to the last 6 months of their career, granting them a comfortable amount for the rest of their life. Human lives would have to pay the price of bad state and budgetary decisions?
The government tends too often to make its budget solutions appears as the unique solving approach of the issue, which doesn’t mean at all that this is the case, and it has to be recalled. The public debt doesn’t have to smash any social part of the population more than any other, and the evidences brought by experts so far lead me to think it will. The risk is that the retirements pensions become a budgetary adjustment variable, and not a due social compensation that allow decent life and needs fulfillment as France, the country of Human Rights, states in its Constitution. Another inadmissible calculation, that reflects a sad conception of teaching in the French nation, is the future of teachers’ pensions that would lose around 600 euros per months. Yet, we have to recognize that the principle of a pension based on 1000 euros, as presented by the President, would eliminate precarious profiles such as artisans, merchants, farmers, who currently receive less than 1000 euros per month in a country with a cost of life above the European average, while having incomes under it.
“Fighting against the reform, you defend the privileges” sound the rhetoric of the government. Again, this trend of infantilizing people by imposing them what they fight for, inducing that they didn’t actually understand anything of what is going on. This syllogism (‘my reform aims at an equalitarian system, you fight it, you stand for inequality’) is, for the simple fact of its pronunciation in a democratic state as ours, very dangerous. Do we need to recall that this same President fighting now for social equality and wishing to delete all the “special regimes” as we call them, was the one setting up the King size bed for big companies and fortunes by removing the tax on high incomes (ISF), and lowering budget for student help (APL)? This confusing communication from the government is now a constant of the current mandate, which tend to enlarge the gap between people and their understanding of politics through blurry speeches, prudent reforms, buying social peace while promoting a liberal political line. Yet, if people were simply influenced in their strike initiative by the mainstream media, believe me they would far more be in favor of this new social and universal justice reform, as the media approach the issue is ‘moderation and bias’ (see BFMTV, CNEWS, Le Figaro, LCI …). Should we not more often recognize the legitimacy of the population to challenge the governmental policies, being an expert in his daily life and his life in the state, more than in the Politics and the Economy that we try to make her perceive as opaque and indecipherable by the common citizen?
Of course, I didn’t point out all the issues in stake in the report announced in introduction, and far from me is the intention to do it, as they are numerous. I simply hope that this draft thought, as biased and accusing as it can be viewed, would have the merit to deconstruct a little bit the official communication that we all drink today, in the difficult time that journalism is living, as well as its freedom of expression and criticism. I let you attached some complementary sources to understand this blurry everything, and go further.
An opinion video from a left-handed French media “Le Média”: https://youtu.be/1K-lC1_1VVM
Philippe Martinez, head of CGT syndicate, talking on France Inter: https://youtu.be/B5GLqRS40Ew
France Culture “The reform point by point”: https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/entendez-vous-leco/retraites-la-reforme-point-par-point
Solidaire “5th of December, France protests to make Macron abandon”: https://www.solidaire.org/articles/le-5-decembre-la-france-en-greve-pour-que-macron-batte-en-retraite
Libération “Why the teachers will protest on December 5th?” : https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.liberation.fr/amphtml/france/2019/12/04/pourquoi-les-profs-seront-massivement-en-greve-jeudi_1767310
New York Times “Strikes against Macron’s pension plans shut down much of France”: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/05/world/europe/france-strike-pensions.html
The Guardian “France grinds to halt in the biggest strikes of Macron’s presidency”: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/05/france-braces-for-biggest-strike-of-emmanuel-macron-presidency
The Marxist “Biggest strike in decades signals new era of class struggle”: https://www.marxist.com/france-biggest-strike-in-decades-signals-new-era-of-class-struggle.htm
Al Jazeera “Tear gas and arrests at largest French strike in decades”: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2019/12/largest-strike-decades-france-191205074707208.html