French government to move forward with pension reform despite nationwide strike

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By Lauren Chadwick
French government to move forward with pension reform despite nationwide strike
Copyright  REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The French government has taken a defiant stance on retirement reform despite a nationwide strike that brought much of the country's transportation to a standstill.

As unions in the country scheduled a second national strike for Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the government would move forward with the reform.

The government plans to eliminate 42 special retirement plans that allow for early retirement or higher pensions in favour of a universal retirement system.

"Putting in place a universal pension system implies phasing out special regimes. I do not believe that the French can continue to accept pension plans that allow some to retire with more or earlier than others despite having worked the same," Philippe said as he defended the government's plan.

Philippe said the new retirement program would be unveiled on Wednesday but that his goal was for the "transition" to be "progressive" and not "abrupt".

He said he did not want to disrupt plans of those workers who planned to retire early or "made investments" based on their eligibility for special retirement plans.

The General Confederation of Work (CGT) trade union - one of the largest in France - said the government was ignoring the national mobilisation of about 1.5 million protesters.

"Once again, we've disrupted schedules but nothing has changed in the government's goal: to break our cohesive retirement system and to replace it with an individual system where everyone will lose," the union said in a statement.

The union encouraged workers to strike once again over the weekend and on Tuesday.

French rail company SNCF said that just one in ten local trains would run on Saturday and one in six high-speed trains would operate.

Read more: France braces for more chaos as strike over pensions reform enters day two