Friday, March 24, 2023

French Senate adopts final version of pension reform bill

PUNJAB NEWS LINE | March 16, 2023 09:03 PM

Paris:The French Senate on Thursday adopted the definitive version of the pension reform bill, which will lift the retirement age by two years to 64 from 2027.

A total of 193 French senators voted on Thursday in favour of and 114 against the bill that was elaborated on the day before by the joint committee of seven senators and seven members of the National Assembly, Xinhua news agency reported.

The bill will be voted by the National Assembly where the government doesn't have an absolute majority. The vote in the National Assembly will be decisive for the bill to become a law.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne could also use an article in the Constitution to pass the bill in the lower house of the French Parliament without a vote. But unions and opposition parties have already threatened to further action if the government uses this constitutional power.

The French Interior Ministry on Wednesday announced that 480,000 people across the country had participated in the eighth general mobilisation against the reforms, organised by the unions.

However, France's largest union, the General Confederation of Labour, said that more than 1.7 million people took to the streets to defend their retirement scheme.

Major unions have already announced that they would be marching in front of the National Assembly on Thursday to push "one last time" the deputies to reject the pension reform bill.

Borne laid out details of the pension reform plan in January, under which the legal retirement age would be progressively raised by three months a year from 62 to 64 by 2030, and a guaranteed minimum pension would be introduced.

Under the plan, as of 2027, at least 43 years of work would be required to be eligible for a full pension.

In 2021, France's expenditure on the pension system equalled 13.8 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

However, the country's Pensions Advisory Council (COR) said that the share of pension expenditure will rise sharply due to the sharp contraction in GDP and would vary between 14.2 per cent and 14.7 per cent between 2027 and 2032.

In a report published by the COR in September 2022, the pension system watchdog said that from 2022 to 2032, the country's pension system would be in deficit.

Earlier, as hundreds of thousands of people protested across France over controversial pension reforms, a joint committee of Parliament debated the draft text of the bill.

After eight hours of talks, the committee of seven senators and seven members of the National Assembly reached a consensus late Wednesday night on details of the text of the bill, particularly articles concerning long careers, mothers, and long-term contracts for seniors, reports Xinhua news agency.

French workers also went on strike on Wednesday, to support their unions and push deputies to consider dropping the pension reforms.

Following Wednesday's general mobilisation, many public service sectors announced that they would extend their strikes, but services will be less disrupted.

The public transport operator in the Ile-de-France region (RATP) said traffic will be as normal on Thursday, except for the express trains that connect Paris and the suburbs.

The country's national railway company SNCF said that two out of three fast trains and three out of five inter-city trains would operate on Thursday, but rail traffic in Ile-de-France will remain heavily disrupted.

Meanwhile, air traffic authorities have also ordered airlines to cancel 20 per cent of their flights leaving Paris Orly Airport on Thursday, as they did on Wednesday.

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