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Angry French unions call for big strike turnout after PM talks fail

‘We are feeling cold fury,’ said one union boss after pension reforms talks with the French government broke down

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne spoke outside her office at Matignon after a meeting of less than an hour with union leaders Pic: Victor Velter / Shutterstock

French union leaders have called for a strong turnout in pension reform protests on Thursday (April 6) after talks with the government broke down.

Their meeting with Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne on Wednesday (April 5) morning lasted less than an hour. 

It came ahead of an 11th national day of strikes and protests over the reforms, which raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

Unions call for ‘extremely strong turnout’

Cyril Chabanier, head of union CFTC, and speaking for the eight-strong cross-union group, said: “We are calling for people in France to massively join the protests across France to say no, for the 11th time, to this unjust and brutal reform.”

Mr Chabanier added only “the revocation, pure and simple” of the reform would satisfy the group. He said: “We said again to the prime minister that there could not be any other democratic solution than to revoke the bill.”

Laurent Berger, of the CFDT, said: “The social crisis is transforming into a democratic crisis.” He called for a “maximum number of workers to turn out and join the protests”.

Sophie Binet, the new head of the CGT union, said the prime minister’s “non-receiving” stance effectively meant she had chosen to “send us out into the streets”. She called for workers to strike and “join the protests across the country”.

She added: “We are feeling cold fury. We have had, in front of us, a government that is disconnected from the realities of this country. [We are] determined to have an extremely strong turnout tomorrow to get this reform revoked.”

Frédéric Soullot, head of the FO union, said that the cross-union group is “more determined than ever” and also called for a “strong turnout in the street and through strikes”.

Read more: France’s CGT elects female leader, a first in union’s 128-year history

PM: ‘Important step’

After the unions left her office, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said the meeting had been an “important step”.

She said: “I heard the unions one by one. I have heard their disagreement on the rising of the age [from 62 to 64] and I reiterated my conviction, and that of my government, of the necessity of this reform.”

She said: “Even though our disagreements about age did not allow us to discuss matters in a deep way, I think that this meeting marks an important step.”

She said that she and her government were “available for future work on these subjects…because I do not plan to move forward without social partners”.

Related articles

Updated: Dates and sectors of upcoming pension strikes in France 

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