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Retirement counter-reform: CGT leader calls for mobilization in September

Translated Monday 24 June 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

Four meetings and a day of demonstrations. On June 17, CGT leader Thierry Lepaon announced a bellicose post-holiday period for his trade union confederation, against a reform of French retirement schemes, for which the supporting arguments are coming increasingly from the bosses’ camp.

“We shall not accept a new reduction in the remuneration of labor or a contesting of pensions and benefits through yet another reform of our system of retirement,” Thierry Lepaon stated at a press conference during which he laid out the positions of the CGT with a view to the social conference being organized for the end of the week.

Retirement schemes.

The CGT leader reiterated his opposition to a lengthening of the dues-paying period, mentioned on the evening of June 16 by French president François Hollande, and he renewed the CGT’s demand for a contribution from the revenues of finance capital to safeguard social protection. The trade union also proposes a return to retirement at 60 and the establishment of a “common house for retirement pensions” to create “co-ordination among the retirement schemes” and “a foundation of common rights that are valid for all,” Eric Aubin, the confederation secretary responsible for retirement questions, pointed out.

“The government is increasingly sensitive to what the bosses may say,” was his evaluation of the preliminary meetings prior to the social conference on June 20-21. To bring its weight to bear in the debate, the CGT is thus announcing that four meetings and a day of action will be held, with the date to be decided “in connection with the parliamentary calendar regarding the important social issues and notably retirement reform.”

Nine points of convergence with the other trade union confederations

Lepaon, who has succeeded Bernard Thibault as CGT leader, called for “the most united possible” mobilization “so as to weigh on the government’s decisions” against a MEDEF (the principal association of French bosses) that has solidly united around Pierre Gattaz’s candidacy for leadership of the MEDEF. According to Lepaon, when you consider the way in which the candidate for the presidency of the MEDEF “has expressed himself these past weeks on the content and the methods of management-labor dialogue, it is foreseeable that there may be a change with the period of Laurence Parisot’s presidency.”

Hence the importance of presenting a most united trade union front. Thierry Lepaon has identified “nine points of convergence” between the CGT’s positions and those of the other trade unions, including the CFDT: “social Europe, crafts and trades equality, the quality of life on the job, on-the-job health, the rejection of a lowering of retirement pensions, the fight against discrimination, the action plan for employment, trade union rights, and the right to have a say” of union shop stewards and representatives.

Question on government aid to businesses

The CGT is also demanding a “reorientation” of the 200 billion euros in government aid to businesses. “We’ve gone from a policy of helping businesses that need help to a policy that gives businesses the right to dispose of government monies,” Thierry Lepaon charged. Concerning jobs, the CGT is notably demanding an evaluation of the generation contracts [1] and the contracts for a future [2]. Thierry Lepaon recognized a few “positive points” in the government’s actions – notably the setting up of the Public Investment Bank – “but, today, what dominates is disappointment,” he said.

[1The generation contract is a mechanism to boost employment, aimed at creating youth-older worker partnerships to encourage the hiring of young people and to guarantee the continued employment of older workers, while ensuring the transmission of know-how. The mechanism provides for government financial aid for new hires made by SMEs as from 2013, under certain conditions. (translator’s note)

[2The contract for a future was established in 2012 in order to facilitate the hiring and training of disadvantaged youth. (translator’s note)

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