Macron VS. The Unions

President E. Macron

Former investment banker and current French president Emmanuel Macron is moving ahead with his plans to reform French pension schemes. If the past is any indication of the future, the task is herculean and quite risky. The last time a French leader attempted to reform the state rail workers' pension the workers' union, which is known as SNCF, held a nation-wide strike the likes of which France has not seen since. The three week strike led to turmoil, disruption and the 1997 election of a Socialist administration. Macron is moving ahead incrementally.

The first element of the reform is a follow through of one of his campaign promises, to close the gap between private pensioners and the public pensioners while retaining the pension age at 62. The rail workers' union has been able to secure an early retirement age for it's employees. Those workers can retire at 52 years of age, and it is unlikely they will easily rescind this perk.

Reforms are expected to enter the drafting stage in early 2018 and the plans won't be enacted until later that year or in early 2019. Though Macron has met with one union about easing labor regulations he has yet to encounter all parties. Other state-run industries like EDF, the utility company and the transportation and rail industry will likely prove to be a harder sell.

With Macron's popularity on a downward spiral the fight ahead seems to loom large. However Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is stepping up to support government reforms. As the more popular politician and one less likely to be considered of favoring the rich, the reforms might become more palatable to the workers.

The Prime Minister is known for his direct manner of speaking and he frequents working class establishments where he is ready to meet with regular citizens. With Macron appealing to the financial class and Philippe appealing to labor, along with the EU's pressure to decrease France's deficit, pension reform could be achieved by 2019.

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