February 26. 2024. 5:04

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Macron’s camp divided over labour union call for ‘mediation’


President Emmanuel Macron’s supporters, including in government and parliament, are divided on strategy regarding the “mediation” proposed by French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) leader Laurent Berger on behalf of the inter-union group on Tuesday.

Berger renewed his wish to exchange with the government on all subjects relating to work, including pension reform and the issue of the legal age, he told France Inter on Tuesday.

While the Constitutional Council still has to decide on Macron’s pension reform, raising the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 is the measure “that polarises all in the opposition,” said Berger.

On behalf of the inter-union group, the union leader is proposing to put the raising of the retirement age on hold for “a month, a month and a half, to ask one, two or three people to mediate, to conciliate, between the different parties,” especially the unions and the government.

Then, “we look at what can be a social compromise”, including wear and tear at work, transitions between working life and retirement and other subjects linked to working life, Berger added.

This should include a discussion on the legal age being raised to 64, which the president and the government refuse to do, arguing that the “democratic process is making its way,” he added.

The idea of mediation was rejected by government spokesperson Olivier Véran, who said Berger’s proposal should be seized “to talk to each other, but directly. There is no need for mediation.”

But Berger’s proposal received support from the President of the Modem group in the Assembly, Jean-Paul Matteï, government partner of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and supporter of President Emmanuel Macron, after a group meeting on Tuesday morning.

“A mediator does not interfere in the substance, he is there to find a link and manage to talk to each other. That’s what is important. We need someone who is not involved,” he explained to the press at the National Assembly.

“The time has come to find points of convergence with the unions and to renew the dialogue”.

The MP later had to specify on BFMTV that this mediation would “reopen the dialogue” with the unions and not “put the reform on hold”.

Modem is thus relatively isolated compared to its allies Renaissance and Horizons, Laurent Marcangeli, president of the Horizons group, having indicated that he did not see “the interest of designating a third person to organise this dialogue”.

Meanwhile, Berger also considers that the pension reform, which in particular includes raising the legal age to 64, has not been the subject of “any real consultation” with trade unions and has been adopted by “a parliamentary procedure that has been skirted” in a context of great contestation by public opinion.

Waiting for the decision of the Constitutional Council would be “too long in this moment of tension”, said Berger, calling for “finding a way out”, which is “not the negation of the thought of one or the other. It is to find appeasement”.

Large numbers of protestors took to the streets on Tuesday for the 10th consecutive day of nationwide strikes, although numbers are somewhat dwindling as the unrest has continued for more than two months.

The Interior Ministry counted 740,000 demonstrators nationwide (compared to 1.09 million last week), including 93,000 in Paris (119,000 last week). The CGT figures also show a significant drop as numbers were reported to have fallen from 3.5 million in the country on 23 March to “over two million” on Tuesday and from 800,000 to 450,000 in the capital.

The inter-union denounced on Tuesday evening “the absence of a response from the executive” to its demands, which “leads to a situation of tension that worries us very much”. The unions are calling for a new day of mobilisation on 6 April.

On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne suggested unions meet between 3-5 April, before the new day of mobilisation.

(Davide Basso | EURACTIV.fr)