Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- French President Emmanuel Macron has renounced his €6150-a-monthpresidential pension in an attempt to end to the strikes in France.

In a bid to bring an end to the public sector strikes over his controversial pension reforms, the French President has claimed he would give up his automatic presidential pension as a gesture of goodwill. The flagship reforms would see the earliest age at which workers can claim a full pension to 64. The standard retirement age in France is 62, but many public sector workers can claim a pension much earlier – train drivers can claim their entitlements as early as 52.

An Elysee Palace spokesman said: ‘The reform of the pension system will apply to the President… it is about being consistent and providing an example.’Macron, who earns €15,000 a month as president, would have been able to claim his pension aged 44 if he lost power in 2020, or 49 if he won a second term.

He will now wait until he is 64 and his final pension will be calculated on his earnings throughout his working life.The Elysee also saidMacron will not take up his allocated seat on the country’s Constitutional Council, a position granted to all presidents worth another €12,500 a month for life.

The gesture may well backfire because no one in France has the slightest doubt that the President will be well able to make very comfortable arrangements for his post presidential career via his many contacts in banking, finance and business. It has not gone unnoticed that his gesture has come rather late in the day when his reform project is in difficulty.

France has 42 special schemes, many granting early retirement and generous payouts for categories such as state railway workers, as part of the country’s complicated pension system.However they are only 2% of the nation’s pension arrangements and are to some extent being used by the government as a justification for modifying the entire pension system and to put the private and the public sector on an equal basis.

Macron’s proposed reforms, to a unified points-based system, have been met with bitter opposition and nationwide strikes.

The left-wing General Confederation of Labour and Workers’ Force trade unions have led the fightback, bringing back memories of similar pension battles in 1995 and 2010.

Macron has also proposed a second compromise, offering to delay raising the retirement age if another way can be found to fund the retirement schemes.

Only a half of high-speed trains and a third of regional trains are scheduled to run during Christmas week as the disruptions threatens to wreak havoc to the festive period.

Workers at an oil refinery in southern France went joined the strike as colleagues at other industrial plants are expected to vote today on whether to stop output.

On a visit to the Ivory Coast, where he was trying to boost the morale of 4,500 French troops fighting Islamist militants, Macron called for a truce over the festive period.Despite the disruption set to continue over Christmas, many French voters still support the strike action.

In a nationwide survey, 51 percent of respondents said they either supported or sympathized with the movement.The same poll a week earlier showed support at around 54 percent.

The Ifop survey, which was published on Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche found only a third were either hostile or against.The way the pension dispute is perceived by the public will have implications for the whole of the remainder of the Presidential term. Elections will take place in April and May 2022. At the moment opinion polls show him neck and neck with his rival from 2017, Marine Le Pen with 27% support for the crucial first round.

A curious aspect of the dispute is a reluctance by the media, the unions and the political class on all sides to point out that the present crisis has its origin in the insistence of the EU that France should change its pension scheme whilst at the same time limiting the government’s room for maneuver economically. Without growth in the economy no pension reform can be effective but no one wants to blame the EU.

The progress of the reforms has been seriously disrupted recently by the forced retirement of the government’s pension reform supremo, Jean-Paul Delevoye, for serious breaches of the rules against holding private offices whilst working for the government. He now risks prosecution and imprisonment. He had failed to declare and terminate no less than 13 consultancies in the private sector. This is particularly serious because it is the aim of the government to encourage private sector pensions in France.

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