January 10, 2023 editorial of the workplace newsletters of the Étincelle fraction of the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), translated from French
On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Borne put the finishing touches on the song that the government and employers have been singing for months about the future of our pensions, and that by now we’ve all learned by heart. The legal retirement age will be pushed back to “only” 64, and beginning in 2027 the contribution period will be set to 43 years. So, we are given a choice: to die at work or at home in misery. Will the government use Article 49.3 (which allows reforms to be adopted directly, without a vote) of the French constitution to pass this?
Article 49.3 or not? The answer is NO!
And as to their lies: no, the pension fund is not in deficit. There was a surplus of funds: 2.6 billion euros in 2021, and 3.7 billion euros in 2022. No, there is no guarantee that the funds will be in deficit in 2032 because our collective struggles could reverse the trend of the state’s policy of saving so much money by paying low salaries to civil servants in the French territories and in hospitals that it increases the deficit. And no, even a deficit of 17 billion euros predicted for 2032 would not be “abysmal” because it would only represent 5% of a total budget of 330 billion of the pension fund. And of course, a 5% increase in salaries would automatically make up for any losses!
Why so many lies and so much persistence over the decades?
Increasing the legal retirement age means increasing the “unemployment of seniors,” who (if the difficulties of their lives have not killed them) will have fewer and fewer rights, will be poor and will receive a smaller pension. Increasing the number of years of contribution needed to receive a full pension means lowering the pension of those who still leave at the legal age. This is intended to reduce the expenses of the pension fund while allowing private pension funds to drain the savings of those who have high enough wages to put money aside. It is a way to decrease the working class’s share of the national income while automatically increasing the share of the bourgeoisie. So, when Éric Ciotti, the head of the Republicans (French liberal-conservative political party), announces that he wants to contribute to “softening the blow of the reform,” we have good reason to worry!
We can make them to be the ones to worry
The so-called “reform” was supposed to be announced in mid-December, much later than expected. However, the refinery strikes in September disrupted the government’s schedule. Then it was delayed again – postponed from this Tuesday, Jan. 10. The bill is now set to be presented to the Council of Ministers on Jan. 23 so that Prime Minister Borne has time to win over the support of the right, and can thus avoid using Article 49.3 of the French constitution.
We shall see! All the delays are symptomatic of the government’s wariness about implementing the policy. They know that not only is its bill very unpopular, but that at the moment it isn’t supported by any of the trade unions. In addition, social discontent against the high cost of living and miserable wages is already so intense that the social situation is a powder keg. According to an Ifop poll, dated Jan. 4, 52% of the people questioned want see France go through a social explosion in the coming months! So, let’s fan the flames in our workplaces and schools. Let’s discuss the necessity of a unified movement, of a battle plan to win. Let’s leave behind the union officials’ way of thinking, where each industry and profession is separate, like a bunch of shopkeepers competing with their neighbors, and instead, let’s unite our forces. Let’s participate in all the mobilizations that take place, notably the Jan. 21 demonstration in Paris called by youth organizations. Let’s gather in general assemblies, let’s join those who are on strike for better salaries or hiring. Wages, pensions, and working conditions must be improved. This can’t go on!